SGEI Paramedic course set to heal local shortage

Megan Walchuk

Paramedics are in critically short supply in Northwestern Ontario. But one local school is hoping to fill the gap.

Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) in introducing a diploma program for Paramedics, with its first cohort beginning the fall of 2020. By developing home-grown paramedics, they’re hoping these grads will live and work within the community.

“There’s a huge demand,” said Brigitte Loeppky, RN, Program Coordinator for SGEI. “We get people who come to Northwestern Ontario for work, from other schools. But eventually, they miss their family, and they move.”

To build interest in the program, SGEI is hosting an information night this Wednesday.

Attendance at the event is free and open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents. Participants will be able to meet program staff, hear about life as a paramedic, and get a glimpse of the course. Although there is a small list of high school level pre-requisites, anyone missing a credit can complete them on-site, she noted. What makes the program unique is its Indigenous cultural content, noted Loeppky. The goal is to create paramedics who are understanding of cultural differences. That will better serve the diverse local population, and create a climate of trust between patients and their healthcare providers.

“We need diversity in healthcare,” she said. “It’s really important for people to feel safe when they enter care. It helps them to work closely in planning and making decisions about their health.”

Local graduates would also have a deeper understanding of the region, said Loeppky. “They would better understand the inequalities, and the challenges in healthcare. It would just be a better fit.”

“And the pay is pretty good, too,” she noted. Due to the high demand, salaries for northern paramedics almost rivals that of nurses.

Although the potential pay is significant, Loeppky finds most students who enroll in healthcare are looking to help.

“They’re passionate about people. They want to give back,” she said, noting that becoming a paramedic is a great fit for those who want to help. “You can make a significant contribution to your community.”

The information night is open to all interested residents and their friends and family. It will take place at 6:30 p.m.,Wednesday, Feb. 5 at the Fort Frances SGEI campus, located at 1452 Idylwild Drive.