UPEI paramedicine program quadruples in class size since last year

UPEI's paramedicine program has quadrupled in class size since last year.

The program only had 4 students in its first year. 2 years later, it has 24.

UPEI's paramedicine program was introduced in 2017. It was designed to help working paramedics expand their expertise. (Laura Meader/CBC)

UPEI's paramedicine program has quadrupled in class size since last year. The degree program was introduced in 2017 by Dr. Trevor Jain, an emergency room physician at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and one of the instructors.  

It's aimed at people thinking about a career as a paramedic, or for those already working in the industry and wanting to explore other opportunities.

Anyone with a diploma in paramedicine from Holland College — or the equivalent — with a 70 per cent average can apply to the two-year program at UPEI.

"I've got really motivated students," Jain said. "The program has been growing. We started with only four students two-and-a-half, three years ago and now we're up to 24."

Program an example for other regions

Last year, six students at UPEI graduated from the program. It's been getting the attention of more than just prospective students. Jain said he's received support from local, regional and national paramedic institutions.

"We've been asked by other institutions in Canada for our curriculum, our design, our barriers to getting this done and how to mitigate those," he said. 

Third-year paramedicine student Samantha MacIsaac is already working as a paramedic. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Jain credits the success of the program to the evolution of the job of a paramedic.

"The profession has gone from not just being ambulance drivers. We know that the first 45 minutes to the first hour of a patient's care is critical." 

The courses are tailored to paramedics, including disaster medicine and crisis response.

Keeping up with 'best practices'

Samantha MacIsaac, a third-year student in the paramedicine program, is already a working paramedic after taking a two-year course at Holland College, but said she didn't hesitate to come back to school to take this course.

"I think it's really important to continue learning and continue your education," MacIsaac said. 

"Paramedics and health care in general is something that's always evolving and always expanding so to stay on top of that knowledge, stay on top of research and best practices is something that's very important to me."

She also said that having a degree gives her a sense of security if she ever gets injured as a paramedic and needs another career in medicine.

Beau Blackmore studied paramedicine in Stephenville, N.L., before moving to P.E.I. to be a part of the UPEI program. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Beau Blackmore moved to P.E.I. after studying in Stephenville, N.L., and is currently in his second semester of the paramedicine program.

"I think the way paramedicine itself is going is within the next 10 years or so, a degree is going to be the entry requirement. So hopefully this will set me apart from the next paramedic," he said.

Jain said he's followed the small group of graduates from the two previous years. A few are doing research, some have returned to their jobs as paramedics with greater expertise, and others have been able to apply to other health-care professions. 

More P.E.I. news 

With files from Shane Ross


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