By Angela Sereda
Paramedicine in Saskatchewan is in an exciting period where growth and leadership for female practioners is on the rise, and while women remain individually strong we are also collectively influential towards one another and within paramedicine today. Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally; success comes from what you do consistently. Women today in paramedicine have continually demonstrated significant leadership within their sectors, and through their actions and voices they have transformed how paramedicine is regarded today within the health care system.
Christina Backlin, ACP
Ministry of Health – Senior Program Consultant, EMS
Jacqueline Messer-Lepage, MBA, B. Med Lab (Microbiology), NCIT (Specialized)
Saskatchewan College of Paramedics - Executive Director/Registrar
Krista Remeshylo, ICP
Saskatchewan Health Authority - Director of EMS Central and Medical First Responders
There are many integral components and layers within our healthcare system that make it is what it is today, and each one of these women featured within this article represent those integral components within our EMS system today. To truly understand and appreciate the paramedic profession today, it is important to acknowledge the many key leaders that led before us and the contributions that they made and how influencing that change required a paradigm shift from that generation (1). That paradigm shift has helped develop and shape the current system to where it is today and without question, these early visionaries have influenced each one of us in some way throughout our journey.
Jessica Brost, ACP
Northeast EMS – Owner/Operator/Chief
Jennifer Larre, ICP
WestMed Paramedics Inc & Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan – Owner/Operator/Chief and Board Member
Lindsey Boechler, ACP, MA
Research Chair of Cultural Empowerment, Centre for Health Research, Improvement and Scholarship, Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Saskatchewan has a long history in the Emergency Medical Services and has evolved today to a now sophisticated, enhanced high-quality out-of-hospital care system that is envied by many around the globe. Throughout this evolution of EMS we have experienced significant changes individually and one of the most significant changes that we all drew reference to has been the evolution and collaborative approach now being taken toward patient-centered care and team-based approaches in all areas of health care. Each of the women interviewed for this article are making tremendous strides within their own individual sector towards this common goal of patient-centered care. LeeAnn and her team of Communication Specialists are now recognized by the industry and the public for making a significant impact to patient care, to Lindsey who is promoting research within paramedicine to help practitioners make evidence-informed decisions which promote patient wellbeing. Krista is working with key stakeholders to having paramedics be part of the integrated collaborative health care teams and Jacqueline working to increase and expand the paramedic’s scope of practice which enables paramedics to become a safe extension of the hospital. Jan is an entrepreneur who focuses on patient safety through medical simulation and Christina was instrumental in the establishment of Collaborative Emergency Centers within the province. Cindy has implemented FAST scans and PEXIP technology in the air environment, to Jennifer advocating to be a rural practicum site for paramedic students, to Jessica being ‘boots on the ground’ and leading her team throughout a large-scale MCI event (Humboldt), and my training as a Community Paramedic and now working alongside many key stakeholders to help implement this new concept within the province. Women are continually making significant impacts within paramedicine and all of us are excited for the future contributions we can continue to offer.
LeeAnn Osler, EMD/EMD-Q
Medical Communications Coordination Center Central - Medavie Health Services West - Deputy Chief
Jan Hiebert, ACP, BHSc
Saskatoon Institute for Medical Simulation – CEO/Founder
Mentorship has been a key component for each professional featured within this article and has led to the respective successes to date. We all acknowledged that multiple figures throughout different stages in our lives have helped shape and influence us to become the leaders we are today. It was said ‘the difference what sets women apart from men is the network of mentors that we as females create; women working in the EMS field inspire so many other women as they are breaking down the walls of an industry which has been male dominated for so many years, and they are doing this with focus, resilience and grace’ (2).
For many of us included here, the first point of inspiration and mentorship came from the close knit families of our childhood, as this was where the development of morals, values, work ethic and drive to never give-up when faced with adversity were founded. We can all agree that success doesn’t come without failures or sacrifices and in the end the success from perseverance often outweighs any hurdles faced and as Jacquie puts it ‘my career has been an unbelievable journey of trial and error’(3). For many of us here, we haven’t felt like we have “sacrificed” much at all and agree with Krista’s statement ‘that I have defined my challenging experiences as choices’ with Jessica adding ‘that I have gained far more from than what I have sacrificed within this career making it worth it’.(4, 5) Despite agreeing that we have gained more versus sacrificed as a working female, internal struggles existed at one point throughout the journey regarding keeping the balance between career and family. Jennifer says it best: ‘I thought I was sacrificing my career to have a family, and after becoming a mom I realized what real sacrifice is to me – being away from my kids’. (6) Today’s working environment is very different than it was years ago and as Lindsey has experienced, with proper time and self-management skills one can be a strong leader, practitioner, mother, wife and mentor.(7)
In every opportunity for growth, something is gained and something else is lost but it is up to each one of us individually to determine the worth versus sacrifice within that opportunity. While we have faced many difficult situations within our careers from operational stressors, the loss of a job, risking everything both personally and financially to take a chance on a business opportunity, or being told early on that women didn’t belong in EMS, the challenges confronted have helped build resiliency and strength within each of us to overcome these obstacles and continue to thrive throughout our careers.
Cindy Seidl, RN, BScN, MN
STARS - Provincial Director of Operations
Angela Sereda, ACP, CP
Moose Jaw and District EMS – Co-Owner/Operator/Deputy Chief
Women, both past and present have made great strides within Saskatchewan and the EMS community. The successes of yesterday carry us through today and today’s successes will carry us into the future. By working with the right team and believing in yourself, you can accomplish amazing things (8) and each of us is extremely proud of the many successes that each other have achieved. Some of these successes are:
Communications Center at Medavie Health Services West for achieving the Centre of Excellence Accreditation Communications for over 20 years and the longest standing Accredited Center of Excellence in Canada
Creating research within our profession in Saskatchewan to help support national research within paramedicine
Building the first Canadian Paramedic Application Portal for Foreign-Trained Applicants which was later used to launch a national portal
Entrepreneur of a successful business that focuses on patient safety
Creating a team-based environment where staff can develop, grow and strive to be better individuals and practitioners
Increasing clinical practises for the betterment of patients
Working with key stakeholders to establish ground ambulance services in Northern Saskatchewan.
Each of these women continually pushes the envelope within her respective sectors of healthcare and because of these women and other women within the health care system today, they will continually strive to make a difference and influence those around them.
As leaders in paramedicine today, it is up to each one of us to help influence, create opportunities for growth/change and mentor those around us to make EMS/Paramedicine/Healthcare better today, which ultimately flows into the communities that we live in as well. Not only are these women leaders within their respective roles and board members on multiple professional committees, they are also using their voices by dedicating many hours on volunteer boards and activities for the betterment of their communities.
While our leadership roles may vary between each of us and we all lead in diverse ways, ‘it is our past and present experiences that we continually draw from to better understand the ever-changing world within healthcare’ (9) and how we can use our experiences to impact the future and next generation of leaders within paramedicine. Great leaders inspire people to do great things and we are all extremely thankful for all of the mentors and leaders that have come into our lives throughout our journeys that we all have had the privilege to learn from, so we thought we would pay it forward to the next generation of practitioners and leaders with quotes that have inspired us:
Christina: ‘If you don’t like something, change it! If you can’t change it, change your attitude’
Jacqueline: Leadership is visible at all levels and in all areas of life, not just at the top’
Krista: ‘Be the leader you would want to follow’
Jessica: ‘Don’t sell yourself short, allow yourself to be proud of what you do and who you have become’
Jennifer: ‘We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes, understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success’
Lindsey: ‘Lead with your heart and remain true to yourself’
LeeAnn: ‘Integrity – above all’
Jan: ‘If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be’
Cindy: ‘It doesn’t cost anything to be kind’
Angela: ‘Embrace diversity, embrace change and embrace your failures, as these are the experiences that will make you grow stronger and gain more confidence throughout your life and your career’
Each of us has taken a different path along our journeys throughout our careers, and while our successes may look different we all still strive towards a collaborative approach for patient-centered care today. Today while we still remain individually strong within our sectors of paramedicine, we also continue to inspire, support and motivate one another and in turn we remain collectively influential towards the betterment of paramedicine in Saskatchewan; now and in the future.