Urgences-Santé on hiring blitz as Quebec expands paramedic service

Urgences-Santé, which provides paramedic and ambulance services across the island of Montreal and in Laval, wants to hire 200 new paramedics this year and more than 600 in 2020.

Students at John Abbott College hoping to be next generation of 1st responders

Students at John Abbott College work to revive a man under cardiac arrest in a training simulation. (Matt D'Amours/CBC Montreal)

The Quebec government is looking to expand ambulance service across the province.

Urgences-Santé, which provides paramedic and ambulance services across the island of Montreal and in Laval, has already hired 125 new paramedics so far this year. It wants to hire another 75 this year and more than 600 in 2020.

"We need paramedics pretty much everywhere," said Urgences-Santé spokesperson Eddy Afram.

Afram said the new hires will help the service keep up with demand as Montreal's population grows and will allow Urgences-Santé to staff specialty teams such as tactical medics and paramedics at Trudeau Airport.

The students in Martin Charpentier's class are hoping to capitalize on this hiring blitz.

Charpentier, a professor in John Abbott College's paramedic emergency care program, says that in a first-year class of 40, typically 25 to 30 finish the program. Just over half of applicants provincewide pass the certification exam on their first try.

Second-year paramedic student Andrei Bojin says the hiring blitz helps motivate him and his fellow students through the tough course load.

"It's been a blast being here so far," he said.

"At the end of the day, we have to learn a lot because we do have the patient's life in our hands."

Bojin has wanted to be a paramedic since he was young.

Student Veronika Sinchileev says that it was a career fair at John Abbott College that convinced her to become a paramedic. (Matt D'Amours/CBC Montreal)

"It's definitely much harder than I expected, but it's really worth it," said student Veronika Sinchileev.

She says the program teaches students how to think on their feet, figuring out how to help a patient when arriving at the scene of an emergency.

After speaking with a recruiter at a career fair at John Abbott, she decided she was going to become a paramedic

"She said that every day is different. It's not like an office job," said Sinchileev, and that appealed to her.

Hiring 200 paramedics

The job isn't for everyone: a certain mental toughness is a necessity.

"Call after call, some people just get tired, and they get overly exhausted," said Charpentier, who has been a paramedic for 18 years and now works part-time for Urgences-Santé.

"It's an exciting job; it's a great job, but it's just very demanding"

One way Urgences-Santé is helping students with that challenging provincial exam is with a tutoring program.

Recent graduates are tutored for two or three days before they take that exam.

There's huge value to that program, said Afram.

"Seventy-five per cent of them will succeed [in] that difficult exam," he said.

With files from Matt D'Amours


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