From Australia to Canada: A Critical Care Paramedic eager to make a difference
August 10, 2023
10 August, 2023
Meet Brent Venables, an Australian paramedic who recently came over to join Ornge in Thunder Bay. We spoke to Brent about his transition, his experience as a paramedic, and what drives him to succeed in the paramedicine field.
Justyn: Can you describe your current role with Ornge?
Brent: I’m an aeromedical paramedic with Ornge based in Thunder Bay, recently joining the critical care training program.
What does a typical workday for you look like?
This question is hard to answer. A normal workday kind of isn’t normal. That’s just the life of a paramedic. You might be on shift, but you have no idea what you’re going to be doing that day.. You might end up doing severe cases in the middle of nowhere. You might end up spending the day grounded due to bad weather. You don’t really know what you’re going to be doing. There’s a variety of the role that certainly makes it appealing.
What made you want to work for Ornge?
I had done a bit of postgraduate study between the critical care and practitioner paramedic streams through a university in Australia. I fell into a primary health care role working in occupational health. I had a bunch of academic theory in the critical care side of things, but none of the practical experience. Working in the resource sector was great and I learnt a bunch, but I didn’t get that clinical exposure that I was hoping to get at that role. It became heavily administrative in nature, so I had to make the decision of staying with something comfortable or going somewhere that would develop me personally and professionally. I’ve always wanted to come to Canada, and I was in a good spot to do so and so I decided to take a chance. I wanted an adventure, to explore and travel. My time working at university is what introduced me to Ornge. About a year after the initial introduction, I was on a plane on my way to Canada.
Could you describe the process of transitioning from being a paramedic in Australia to working with Ornge in Ontario? Were there any challenges or notable differences you encountered?
The process was arduous and at times, challenging. I followed the equivalency process for international paramedics, as designed by the Ministry of Health, which seeks to obtain the Ontario designation for a Primary and Advanced Care Paramedic. It took approximately eight months from start to finish, which honestly wasn’t very encouraging. A lot of time was spent waiting between in-person and written exams, which is challenging for foreign paramedics who likely come over with no accommodations or income and complete the process in that time.
Despite the challenges, it has been great to hear about the partnership between Ornge and the Ministry of Health to streamline the process for international Critical Care Paramedics. My hope is that this process will significantly shorten the length of time to achieve equivalency and help those coming to Canada after me.
What is the best part about being a paramedic for Ornge? / What are you looking forward to the most?
The clinical development of the position and the education investment, It’s exactly what I wanted. Being able to develop with Ornge is the best part of joining the team, and getting that experience is something that I am really looking forward to.
What are some ways that you handle the stress that come with the job?
If I’m being honest, one of the best things that helped was getting my pup Axel. Having that little bugger and seeing him full of energy and excitement just melts the stress of a bad day away.
What do you love most about your job?
Those moments where you can make the difference in someone’s life, but not always in the way people might think, though. The jobs I remember the most aren’t the ones where I used all the equipment or administered a bunch of medicine. My favourite jobs were the ones that built connections.
One of the last things I did before leaving Perth was volunteer with this organization that offers a service to palliative care patients that allow them to go out and do something they want to while they are able, like attending a wedding or going to the beach for the last time. I helped take a lady out to go home for the last time. It was touching seeing her start to get emotional in the back of the ambulance. She could see out the window and recognize the trees, she could feel the turns and the bumps in the road and realize how close she was to home. In that moment, as a paramedic, there’s nothing you can do. You can’t put a band aid on that, there’s no oxygen for that. All you can do is hold their hand and be present for them. Those jobs, can still be hard, but for different reasons. It’s not that they’re cognitively difficult, or involve complicated skills. It’s about being comfortable with being uncomfortable while someone is having that realization that they are coming to the end of their lives. Those calls can make a big difference in someone’s journey.
Who or what inspires you, either professionally or personally?
Dene. He was my partner working on the mine site. He has been a paramedic longer then I have been alive and still going strong. Absolute champion of a bloke, the nicest, most easygoing, and humble dude. He was one of the first people that I spoke to about coming to Canada. He didn’t wait for me to decide, he just went ‘its going to be sad to see you go, you have to do it. You need to go and challenge yourself.’ I said yes to things that I probably would never have done because his voice in the back of my head saying ‘Why not? What’s the worst that’s gonna happen?’
Internationally trained Critical Care Paramedics interested in joining Ornge are encouraged to visit www.ornge.ca/CCP for more information, or e-mail questions to internationalCCP@ornge.ca.