Building the next generation of EMS professionals is a mammoth task. Getting kids interested in emergency medical care from a young age is a key starting point.
The Northern Lights Medical Venturers program in Alberta, Canada, allows youths interested in emergency medicine to attach to a local provider or program to learn more about the profession.
Eric Atkinson is the senior advisor for the program, which takes kids between the ages of 13–17 who interested in emergency medicine and provides EMS training through the Canadian College of EMS, then offering volunteer opportunities such as providing standby first aid at camps and other events.
The program currently has 15 members and eight adult advisors who supervise them during their monthly required meetings and volunteer opportunities.
The Medical Venturers program began in British Columbia in 1995 and made its way to Ontario in 1999. The Northern Lights Medical Venturers program that Atkinson is part of started in Alberta in 2012. Their branch of the program works with the Canadian College of EMS over a three- or four-year period to teach the kids everything they would need to know to take the EMR exam, Atkinson says.
The Canadian College of EMS, located in Edmonton, provides training using an NAEMT-structured course model at required monthly meetings. Atkinson says the meetings usually consist of hands-on training and scenario-based learning.
Outside of the trainings, the kids participate in one to two volunteer events per month, Atkinson says.
“They do everything from scout camps to community events and participating in first aid standby events with the college,” Atkinson says. “They get plenty of opportunities to volunteer and get hands-on field experience.”
The volunteer opportunities help provide teaching opportunities and a chance to get a firsthand look into what an EMS career can look like, Atkinson says.
“We’ve had a couple students who didn’t realize what actually goes into emergency medicine,” Atkinson says. “The program provides some eye openers, like the first time you get vomited on. For some it’s a wake-up call and for some it flips a switch and really solidifies their desire to be involved.”
Atkinson says to this point the program has been relatively successful. They started with about 6 members and, as of last year, the program had about 15 members.
“We also have quite a few prospective members,” Atkinson says. “As we’ve been getting out more and becoming a lot more visible, there’s been a greater response to our program.”
Most important, Atkinson says, the kids who are involved in the program love it. Atkinson says the response the kids have to the program is almost always overwhelmingly positive. The key to keeping it this way, Atkinson says, is to keep the kids involved in every aspect of the program.
“Because we are with Scouts Canada, we try to include the youth in as much of the decision making and development aspects as we can so we don’t just end up sitting and lecturing them for two hours at a time,” Atkinson says.
Another key is to make sure they aren’t overworking the kids. Being aware of the scope of what they are able to do and making sure they’re not working long shifts or stretching them too thin is essential in keeping the students engaged. Atkinson says he often works on providing new opportunities to the kids to keep them fresh and give them new things to be doing.
At the moment, the Northern Lights Medical Venturers is the only Medical Venturers program in the Alberta area. There are 26 other Medical Venturers programs sponsored by Scouts Canada across the nation.
The program has had three graduates go onto careers in the medical field: two into EMS and one into nursing, Atkinson says.
Programs similar to Medical Venturers in other aspects of emergency response are also available, such as Fire Venturers, Police Venturers and Search and Rescue Venturers.