15 new 'super paramedics' hit the streets of Montreal, Laval this month

Fifteen fresh graduates of Université de Montréal’s new advanced care paramedic program are hitting the streets this summer.

Advanced care paramedics can perform additional procedures while patients are in transit

The first 15 advanced care paramedics trained in Quebec will be hitting the streets this summer, providing ambulatory care that is a step above primary care paramedics. In the back row, Louis-Pierre Fournier is the fifth from the left and Julien Henry is sixth from the left. (Submitted by Sébastien Pothier)

Fifteen fresh graduates of Université de Montréal's new advanced care paramedic program are hitting the streets this summer, meaning their patients will be able to receive a higher level of care on the way to the hospital.

Every minute in the ambulance can be critical for patients, but the average Urgences-Santé emergency medical technician is unable to provide a long list of front-line procedures, like external cardiac stimulation or administering prescription-strength pain medications.

Some situations can be stressful for Montreal paramedics who know there are certain relatively simple emergency room procedures that they are not allowed to perform 

Sometimes those procedures can mean the difference between life and death.

"We recognize those situations, but now we can do something about it," said graduate Louis-Pierre Fournier.

Fournier was a paramedic for eight years before signing up for the program. 

These specialized treatments aren't always successful, he acknowledged, but this new training gives him the tools to do everything he can for patients. 

"If it's not working, I know for myself that I did everything I could," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Friday

Lifesaving procedures in transit

Regular or primary care paramedics can provide CPR, intubation (securing the airways), semi-automatic defibrillation and administer some medications such as adrenaline for severe allergic reactions.

Advanced care paramedics — sometimes called "super paramedics" — can take it a step further with procedures including thyrocricotomies, endotracheal intubation (for people who can't breathe on their own) and unblocking airways with clamps. They can offer needle decompression and administer about 20 different medications.

"It's mostly critical care we are trying to give to the patient before they come to the hospital," he said.

Fournier will be on the job by the end of June, working alongside fellow graduates like Julien Henry. The advanced care paramedic team will be based in Lasalle, Henry said, though they will cover all of Montreal and Laval.

Though an advanced care paramedics pilot project in Montreal dates back to 2001, Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine was the first in the province to actually train these advanced ambulatory workers. (Radio-Canada)

"Louis-Pierre and I will be teamed up in an SUV which we will be adding onto an ambulance with two primary care paramedics already on board," said Henry.

"Soon, we will be automatically sent by the dispatch centre on the calls that they flagged in our scope."

Taking care a step further

Though a pilot project for this type of care dates back to 2001, Université de Montréal's Faculty of Medicine launched the first-cycle diploma program in 2016. It was the first of its kind in the province.

Before it was made available, technicians were heading to Ontario for training as this program is common across the rest of Canada.

The original pilot project included 18 technicians who have performed some 2,000 interventions a year since.

"I always thought it would be interesting to be able to provide a further level of care while being in the field," said Henry, who is also a registered nurse.

"We've learned a lot over the last two years, but I think we are going to learn even more actually being on the road and implementing our new scope of practice."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak