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Mark Beaulieu says there is a bright future for paramedics

'Not only will the Community Paramedic Program take some of the burden off the provincial emergency departments but also the road medics who can focus more on those emergencies that do come in'
Photo Provided by Mark Bealieu.

“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.  


Young people who aren’t sure what career path they might want to choose should consider a career as a Paramedic says Mark Beaulieu, a Paramedic Supervisor in North Bay.  

For one thing, there are going to be jobs available to those who are in the process of getting their qualifications thanks to a recent announcement of $15-million to expand the Community Paramedic Program in Ontario.

“The Community Paramedic Program has been very well supported by the province,” says Beaulieu.  

“This is going to allow them to hire full-time paramedics to go into homes and monitor situations where they can triage people as they go. It’s more along the lines of when the person can be directed to a clinic where they can see their doctor and it’s not usually those urgent situations. It should help with the bed shortages in the hospitals and the delays in the emergency rooms right across the province.

"I feel like we are approaching a time where there are going to be so many positions created and the amount of jobs that are going to be available over the next two to three years are going to be phenomenal. The problem is that they are going to have to find enough certified paramedics to fill those roles, so I’m hoping people see that and hear that and start thinking about going into a program that could certify them within one or two years.” 

Born and raised in Redbridge, Beaulieau has spent the last 36 years working as a paramedic in Nipissing District and he says this is an opportune time to get into the field.  

““Not only will the Community Paramedic Program take some of the burden off the provincial emergency departments but also the road medics who can focus more on those emergencies that do come in”.”  

It’s a career that Beaulieu didn’t even plan to pursue himself in his youth.   

“I was interested in the trades in high school and wanted to become a machinist and there was a program offering that course at Canadore College. I didn’t get accepted into that so I took some time and took the Katimavik program, which takes young adults from all over Canada and puts us together in a billet home for three months and it was through that experience that I was taught some advanced first aid,” he says.  

That was the spark he needed to consider the health care field and says he got into it at the right time.  

“The province was transitioning to have more of a college program for this advanced first aid course. So because of that, there was a gap between that course and the college program and so there weren’t enough qualified people to fill the jobs that were needed in this field.

"And at the time we were just called ambulance drivers, and that’s really all we were. We only did basic stuff, nothing like the kind of work you would see paramedics do now. I started right at the bottom doing that like everyone else does and now, 36 years later, I’m a Paramedic Supervisor.”  

The Chippewa Secondary School graduate says there is more responsibility given to a paramedic today.  

“As a Primary Care Paramedic, this classification gives you many skills such as defibrillation and many symptom relief medications. The profession went from Ambulance Drivers to Paramedics roughly 20 years ago mainly because of the advancement of the skills we currently perform.”  

Beaulieu says there are now three different classifications of paramedics; Primary Care paramedic, Advanced Care Paramedic, and Critical Care Paramedic. He says it is a three-year program to get the Advanced Care classification, while the Critical Care Paramedic program is another year of advanced training.  

“Those are the medics you see working for ORNGE. ORNGE is currently setting the standard to have the majority of their medics trained to a critical care level.” 

Beaulieu says this has really been a rewarding career over the last three decades. He says right from his first day he knew he was doing something that was making a difference. 

“I’ve been a paramedic preceptor for many years where I mentor students and I’ve always told them; picture yourself on a four-by-eight sheet of plywood, surrounded by walls that are only five feet high so you can’t fully stand up, and then get three of your buddies on the outside of that to shake the snot out of it, and that’s what it is like being in the back of an ambulance when you’re traveling down the highway,” says Beaulieu.  

“When you’re trying to treat people in the back of a vehicle that is going 120 kilometers an hour down the highway and you’re dealing with life and death situations in difficult times and uncontrolled situations. It’s an adrenaline rush for sure and it gets me every single day, even now as a supervisor because I’m not just responsible for myself, I’m responsible for the crews. Every time that pager goes off, the adrenaline is there to say ‘its go time.’”  

But he says it is a very difficult job that can weigh on you.

“You have to be able to be decompressed but alert, knowing that alarm could go off at any second. When you get that call you have to be aware of all these scenarios. You’re going through traffic, trying to avoid not getting hit, while trying to think of that person that called 9-1-1 and how you’re going to get that situation under control. You go from 0-60 in no time, and then you come back to the station and your peers are probably the best people to speak to. You talk openly about your call and you try to wind down and then you wait for the next one.”  

In a recent lecture done by one of his students, Beaulieu says they found a statistic indicating only four per cent of paramedics in the world actually get to a full 30 years of service before retiring.  

“A lot of that is because of the mental health side of it. You’ve got 19 and 20-year-old kids coming into a situation with very little life skills and on the first shift, they could be asked to make difficult life and death decisions. Those are the kind of situations that make or break paramedics,” says Beaulieu.  

But overall, Beaulieu says the good far outweighs the bad and there have been many gratifying moments that reiterate how much you can help people in this position.  

He says looking ahead there is a bright future for people who want to get into this line of work, especially in Ontario as he says, “This pandemic has really brought to the forefront the need for more paramedics.”

If you have a story suggestion for the “Jobs of the Future” series, send Matt an email at [email protected].     

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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