Paramedics asking for patience as pandemic heightens stress levels
GUELPH -- Guelph-Wellington paramedics are reminding the public they're "just here to help" as they say stress levels for them and others have been much higher during the pandemic.
Primary care paramedics like Breanna Cunnigham and Erin Miehe are relatively new to the job in comparison to others, with Cunningham having started two and a half years ago and Miehe hit the road for the first time in June.
"I would say part of this job is the people skills," said Cunningham. "We’ve all taken the medical background and learned how to treat medical emergencies, but a lot of the time what people are looking for is re-assurance and someone who is there to listen to what their concerns are."
They say they both quickly learned to expect anything once their shift begins and that stress is usually high regardless of the situation.
"We don't know how family members or even the patient is going to respond," said advanced care paramedic Darren Giles.
The three say the pandemic has added an extra layer of stress for them and the people they're trying to help.
"People are calling for more COVID-19-related calls as well as just not being able to cope at home anymore," said Cunningham.
Province-wide pandemic restrictions have also affected their day-to-day schedules like many others.
"I have a four year old at home, so not having childcare and trying to work shift work, coming into work, just making sure I keep a good mindset, is tough," said deputy supervisor Mel Currie.
The pandemic has also impacted how paramedics do their job, like having to take extra time to put on PPE before helping patients, knowing some that they deal with have COVID-19.
"Patients, patients' families, and bystanders have been a lot more stresses as well," said Giles. "So they're projecting their stress on us. It's understandable, but sometimes it's a lot."
Wellington County OPP arrested and charged a 63-year-old Fergus resident with assault on Thursday, after they reportedly assaulted a paramedic on Boxing Day.
"Unfortunately it's a very common practice for our paramedics to get assaulted," said deputy chief Leanne Swantko. "It's really imperative that the public recognize paramedics are trying to do their job."
Currie asks that anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue, or is feeling stressed, should reach out to a family member or friend, while Giles adds that the public should be honest about the condition of one's health when being treated by a paramedic.
"We want everybody in the community to be safe, but I definitely don't want to take this back to my family," he said.
Both Giles and Cunningham add that they've converted a part of their home to a makeshift gym in order to relieve stress.