It’s not the “blood and guts” calls that Tarra is drawn to as a paramedic. For Tarra it’s more about the emotional connections she’s been able to make with her patients. “I find sometimes that the things that are rewarding for me are different. To be able to provide some comfort and conversation to someone in crisis — that’s what I like most.”

Tarra was born and raised in Waterloo Region and has been a paramedic since 2003. Five years into her career she decided to go back to school to become an Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP). An ACP is qualified to provide expanded care in the field. They are able to do medical procedures like intubation and advanced cardiac procedures but can also administer drugs that would otherwise only be offered in the hospital. ACPs truly bring the ER to the scene of the emergency.

Following the birth of her second son, Tarra decided to apply for a post with the Rural Emergency Response Unit (RERU). RERU was developed as a way to serve the needs of the vast rural population in Waterloo Region. Each shift there are three first response vehicles deployed in the townships in order to respond to calls that may take longer for an ambulance to reach — sometimes bridging the gap for critical care. “It’s a good pace for me right now. We may get three calls in a shift where a regular ambulance might get nine or more. I also think it’s good for the community to see us out there in the rural areas building rapport.”

Tarra is very quick to speak to the physical demands of the job and feels it’s her responsibility to ensure she’s in good physical and mental health. “This job motivates me to stay fit — if you’re not taking care of yourself mentally and physically you can’t do it.”

For Tarra, the best parts of the job are sometimes also the most challenging. “We so often look for the piece of the puzzle to figure out how we can fix a situation, what do I have to make the patient better?” Unfortunately not every call comes with easy solutions.

On a particularly difficult call, Tarra encountered a patient who was very close to death. Tarra had nothing in her protocols that could help him. “At first that made me a little upset but then I realized that I have my words and so I took his hand and we had an honest conversation.” Tarra was able to address the man’s fears and comfort him in his last moments. “His wife was able to come in and say good-bye and then he died. I’m grateful for experiences like this but it takes a toll. That one sticks with me.”

Even on the more challenging days, Tarra is happy with her decision to become a Paramedic. She enjoys the camaraderie of the crew and the independence that the role provides. “We calm the crisis and bring it to the hospital where it can be dealt with. The adrenaline and problem-solving are more acute.”

To be a paramedic you need to enjoy team work and have strong communications skills. “We are confident and have the drive to help in a high-stress situation — it is a really rewarding job.”

For more information visit Paramedic Services.