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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


New paramedic program

By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun

Georgian College's new paramedic program won't welcome its first students until next September, but 474 hopefuls had already thrown their hats into the ring by Feb. 1 and more applications are expected.
Health sciences program manager

And hopeful they must be. Cassandra Sines-Thompson, the Barrie college's dean of health sciences, says her school will take about 40 students into the two-year program, which has been reintroduced at the college after several years of pent-up demand and extensive research and consultation by the school.

Serves community needs

Years ago Georgian had a part-time paramedic program, Sines-Thompson says, but it was phased out and would-be students were referred to Conestoga College in Kitchener. Eventually, Conestoga couldn't handle them all and asked Georgian if it would consider starting a program for its catchment area.

"One of the things that we have done before we've introduced any new program is fairly in-depth research, including where the students might come from, employment opportunities, all those kinds of things to see if the program would be viable," Sines-Thompson says. "It also has to serve our community needs."

Applicants to the program need a high school diploma with credits in English, chemistry and biology. They also need to pass a college test. Every applicant has to take the health occupations aptitude exam, says Mary Lamb, the health sciences program manager.
Georgian College

"The reason why we do those kinds of things is that it helps us ensure that our applicants are coming in with the right knowledge and skills and aptitude in order to be successful in the program," Sines-Thompson says.

Applicants also need a CPR certificate, and have to pass a health, immunization and criminal record check. Tuition is about $2,200 a year.

The make-up of Georgian's inaugural paramedic program can't be determined yet, of course, but it's fairly simple to surmise about the composition of that first class.

Lamb says there will "probably" be a greater percentage of men than women in the program with the age range starting at 18 or so. Sines-Thompson adds that if figures from other Georgian programs hold true for the paramedic course, then 45% to 55% of the students in the program will come from the college's catchment area that takes in Owen Sound, Wiarton, Orangeville, the Muskoka region, north to Huntsville and east to Beaverton.

In their first year of study the trainee paramedics learn anatomy, physiology, patient care, how diseases progress and so on, says Sines-Thompson. The following year they will have to complete clinical and field placements, including spending time as the third person in an ambulance, for a total of 770 hours. None of the placements are paid. Upon graduation students have to write a provincial emergency services test administered by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
  • Georgian College's new paramedic program begins in September.
  • Almost 500 people have applied for admission already.
  • The course is full time and lasts two years.
  • Applicants must write a health occupations aptitude test before they are accepted.
  • The average paramedic's full-time salary between 2000 and 2002 was $45,000.
  • Job prospects for paramedics are good to very good, but vary according to locale.

  • Job prospects for paramedics are good to very good, but vary according to locale. Most of the opportunities come in rural centres or places that are rural-urban mixes. Sines-Thompson says pay varies too, although the average paramedic's full-time salary between 2000 and 2002 was $45,000.

    Chris Barker, who graduated as the top student in Georgian's firefighter course in 2003, wants a spot in the paramedic program. He likes the idea that every call promises to be different, stimulating and that he can build a rapport with some of his charges, especially those who are older.

    "I want to be part of emergency services," says Barker. "I'll go to Tuktoyaktuk if that's what it takes."

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