Emergency dispatch course offers new career path

Matt Gardner
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Thinking about a career change? Parkland Ambulance Care has a suggestion for you.

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Starting next Friday, Parkland will be hosting a three-day emergency medical dispatch course, providing attendees with some of the necessary certification to work at one of three wide dispatch centres such as the one in Prince Albert.

“There’s other qualifiers that they have,” Parkland director of public affairs Lyle Karasiuk said, listing CPR and first aid certification. “But without this course you can’t even apply to work in these dispatch centres. Then you can become what we in our industry refer to as an emergency medical dispatcher.

“That’s the person on the end of the phone when you’re talking to the ambulance and you’re giving them instructions (on) how to get to your place because somebody’s fallen, or there’s a traffic collision, or somebody’s not breathing, or somebody’s got a serious injury or, even better, maybe somebody’s having a baby.

“Those are the people who are going to coach you on the phone to give you the right information, take the information to some of the responding paramedics, and co-ordinate other resources.”

The course last from Friday to Sunday and has a typical classroom format, lasting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with breaks. Enrollees who complete the course earn National Academy Emergency Medical Dispatch certification.

Lessons start with basic topics and gradually escalate.

“What they’re first going to learn (are) … elementary things like how to properly answer a telephone,” Karasiuk said. “But they’re going to learn how to take control of a caller … how to help somebody who’s panicking — who’s very upset because of the situation — to gain control of that caller, to get the right information, and then through a series of what we call pre-arrival instructions, help the caller either to help themselves, help a loved one there, or maybe just to do simple things like turn on the front lights and put away pets because the paramedics are coming.”

Emergency medical dispatchers are the eyes and ears of paramedics travelling to the scene. While ambulances race across the city or country, dispatchers listen for suspicious signs, such as callers not being forthright or strange background noises, and alert police if they feel officers may be required at the scene.

Those are the people who are going to coach you on the phone to give you the right information, take the information to some of the responding paramedics, and co-ordinate other resources. Lyle Karasiuk

“We call it a zero-minute response in our language,” Karasiuk said. “What that means is that from the time you call for help, help is actually being started by someone on the phone who’s directing you … to do simple things (such as to) control bleeding. Maybe even to do complex things, like … CPR. But maybe it’s a frightened child on the end of the phone … who needs some support because Mommy or Daddy is hurt, and they’re going to stay on the line all the while while the paramedics are there to do that comforting, caring, professional voice that that person needs until the paramedics walk in the door.”

The Prince Albert communication centre answers more than 16,000 calls per year and is currently looking to expand its facilities and hire additional staff for early fall and late winter.

Karasiuk noted that positions are shift work; those requiring a traditional 8 to 5 schedule might not enjoy the job. But he urged anyone desiring a change to consider the course.

“If you’re looking for a new challenge and an opportunity to really make some differences in people’s lives, this may be the career path, and we hope that you’ll come and take the course, and hopefully become one of our future emergency medical dispatchers in our wide area dispatch centre.”

Course fees are $354 per attendee. Anyone interested should contact Karasiuk by email at lyle@parklandambulance.com or preferably by phone at 953-8358, where he will guide them through the online registration process at https://courses.prioritydispatch.net.

Organizations: Prince Albert, National Academy Emergency Medical Dispatch

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