British Columbia

Kamloops paramedics first in B.C. to receive palliative care training for paramedics

Kamloops is the first B.C. city to take part in a trial by national non-profit Pallium Canada, which gives paramedics palliative care training. The training is meant to reduce hospital visits for patients with life-limiting diseases.

'It's been not only positive for the paramedics, but also for the patients,' says paramedic

'It's been an overwhelming positive response from all the paramedics in the area so far,' said Renee Gilroy, an advanced care paramedic with B.C. Ambulance. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Kamloops is the first B.C. city to take part in a trial by national non-profit Pallium Canada, which gives paramedics palliative care training. 

The training is meant to reduce hospital visits for patients with life-limiting diseases by giving paramedics tools to treat people at home — if it's within the patient's care plan, explained Renee Gilroy, an advanced care paramedic with B.C. Ambulance.

"It's been really amazing," she said.

"They want to be in a place that they've chosen, they don't want to be in the hospital where it's loud and there's bright lights and everything like that. They want to be surrounded by their family and friends in a situation that they've chosen. They want to take the control back."

Gilroy said the goal is to expand palliative care training to paramendics across the province. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Previously, if palliative care patients called 911, paramedics would treat them with some pain control and then take them to the hospital.

With the new training, paramedics can now potentially care for patients at home if it's the patient's wish, and work with their palliative care team and assist them with taking their already prescribed medications after consultation, explained Gilroy.

"Pain crisis in patients with end of life diseases is quite common," she told Daybreak Kamloops' Jenifer Norwell.

"They are given medications that they can take at home, but sometimes families or the patients themselves don't know how to take them or their pain crisis is just so extreme that they need some extra assistance."

Another common symptom palliative patients experience is shortness of breath.

"They don't necessarily need to go to the hospital if that's not their wish, but we can assist them with different interventions," said Gilroy.

This includes medication, or even simpler things such as positioning and comfort. 

'Positive response'

Palliative care training is a big change to the treatment guidelines for paramedics, Gilroy said.

"It's been an overwhelming positive response from all the paramedics in the area so far and we're excited that the rest of them will get the training as well," she said.

So far, there are a few paramedic specialists in Vancouver that have received the training, as well as some community paramedics in rural areas, but Kamloops is the first B.C. city to participate in the pilot project.

Gilroy thinks patients in rural areas who have less access to palliative resources will benefit significantly from this type of care as the training expands. 

"It's been not only positive for the paramedics, but also for the patients themselves."

Kamloops Paramedics now have new training that will allow them a more compassionate approach, when responding to the homes of people in their final days of life. Changes that will allow those patients to stay in their homes longer. 5:33

With files from Jenifer Norwell and Daybreak Kamloops

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