It was Mark’s strength in biology combined with his self-admitted “short attention span” that led him to a career as a paramedic. “I thought it would be interesting and exciting and boy has it ever been!” 22 years later, Mark is still working as part of the Region of Waterloo’s Paramedic Services team — taking on a paramedic supervisor role in 2013.
There’s no such thing as an average day in the life of a supervisor although each day starts with a focus on getting the staff set up for success. “Basically the first three hours of our shift are about getting the night staff back in from the road and helping them sort through any issues that may have come up. We then turn our attention to getting the day shift out the door and giving them what they need to perform their jobs throughout the day.”
Once Mark has worked through the administrative tasks of the job it’s expected that he get out on the road himself. “Our role is to supervise and support the paramedics and help them through their day whether that is at major incidents, difficult calls, or simply dealing with other challenges that come up in a shift.”
With 43 staff working any given shift there are many challenges for supervisors to face including health and safety concerns. “We don’t control where our staff work. They could be upside down in a ditch, at a construction site or even in a poorly maintained home where the floor is collapsing. Since we don’t own their workplace, it can be difficult to make it safe and our best bet is to ensure that the staff are educated and have their personal protective equipment.”
Another challenge that supervisors face is being the right leader to the many different personality types on the paramedic team. “Paramedics by nature are very independent workers and are used to being leaders at every call they go to. They storm into the middle of chaos and try to make sense out of it all the while trying to bring it to a decent outcome for the patient.” Mark works hard to know the staff individually so that he can manage them in the best way possible.
Mark gets a lot of satisfaction from being able to make changes in the system that make things better for everybody. “As a supervisor we’re kind of in that fence position. We walk the fence between the paramedics and the senior management team. When we can come together and make a positive change that works for everyone — that’s very satisfying.”
For anyone considering a role as a paramedic supervisor, Mark’s advice is simple. “Take on every challenge you can. Learn from every new experience and don’t shy away from failures. Learn from them.”
To learn more visit Paramedic Services.