Georgia Nelson has enjoyed the big shift in career path she made. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Islander finding her calling in fledgling community paramedic program

Georgia Nelson’s work in Chemainus part of a new wave of small community health care delivery

Georgia Nelson feels her own 360-degree career shift is quite unusual, but just what the paramedic ordered.

Formerly in musical instrument repair, she couldn’t have gone any more in an opposite direction than into the health care field and became the first community paramedic in Chemainus nearly a year ago.

“I wasn’t a fan of it so I decided to be a paramedic,” she said after two and a half years at Long & McQuade in Victoria.

Nelson, 28, absolutely loves what she’s doing now.

“It’s constantly changing,” she said. “I’m always figuring out what to do next.

“This role is for a very specific purpose.”

Nelson’s father was a paramedic and she perhaps never fully realized this type of work might be her destiny. “I was always exposed to it,” Nelson related.

Born in Dawson Creek, she grew up in Tumbler Ridge and was nine years old when her family moved to Chilliwack. Nelson graduated from Chilliwack Senior Secondary School in 2008 and came to the Island nearly five years ago, first in Victoria for a year.

“After high school, I took a year off,” she noted. “I worked and washed cars for a dealership.”

Part of her time in musical instrument repair was spent in Fort McMurray, Alberta and then Victoria.

Nelson spent a year and a half for Emergency Medical Responder training and started to work toward B.C. Ambulance certification.

She became a B.C. Ambulance paramedic in Tahsis, staying there seven months and also working part-time in Victoria.

“It was quiet there,” Nelson recalled. “I think I only had two calls total. I only went out there for a week at a time.”

She would stay overnight at the station during that time to be available to serve the community of 300 should the need arise.

Coming to Chemainus sent her on the way toward more of the career path she desired as community paramedic.

“I moved out here about a month before I got the job,” Nelson indicated.

The program has been in effect less than three years in B.C.

“It is very new,” said Nelson. “They started out in the more remote areas. They started out, they noticed some people were falling through the cracks.

“I’ve got a few responsibilities – one is the education part of it.”

Nelson also does clinics such as blood pressure and blood sugar, and the third part of her job entails patient visits.

“I’m able to go to people’s homes, monitor them and look at their vitals,” she explained.

Nelson has become a familiar face around town and people now recognize her community paramedicine vehicle immediately.

She’s part of residents’ health care team.

“The idea is bridging the gap between doctors and home care,” Nelson added. “I don’t do the same job as them. It’s giving support.

“Starting off a lot of it is just finding my place and talking to a lot of people. I do enjoy it.”

She’s stationed at the same location as the regular B.C. Ambulance paramedics.

“The only calls I would go to is if it’s a very serious emergency and there’s no one there,” Nelson pointed out.

“I’ve still got all the training as all the paramedics. The only thing is I wouldn’t be able to transport.”

She serves not only Chemainus, but also Crofton, part of Saltair up to Panorama Ridge, and Thetis and Penelakut Islands.

A Naloxone seminar she gave at the Cowichan Neighbourhood House in August last year on how to deal with an overdose situation is part of the changing times that must be addressed.

“Part of the job is figuring out a community’s specific needs,” she suggested.

Through all her experiences so far, Nelson’s sure she found her calling.

“I did find I needed to do a job that was really contributing to society,” she reasoned.

For more information about the community paramedic, you can email Nelson at CP.Chemainus@bcehs.ca.

 

Georgia Nelson during a Naloxone seminar at the Cowichan Neighbourhood House last August. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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