EMS Profile: Terri Burton
Director, Emergency Services, District of Muskoka.
In 1985 when I joined Air Ambulance 799 in Buttonville, ON.
I started my career as a critical care nurse and worked in ICU/CCU at Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Barrie, ON. We consistently saw air ambulance paramedics in our departments transferring the sickest patients via air to Toronto. My personal goal was to join that elite team in five years. I saw the impact the air medics could have on a patient and the effect of patient care in general by offering such a highly skilled service. Being part of Air also offered continuous learning, and continuous challenges on the job as no two cases were ever the same.
Without a doubt, John Wultchyn and Bob Fretz. They were two of the original air medics on 799 and John in particular encouraged me to apply and challenge myself to become a critical care flight paramedic.
Please provide a brief description of your career.
Graduated from nursing, and worked in ICU/CCU at RVH Barrie, then went to Sunnybrook, ICU. For 10 years, air was only available on day shift. The Minister at the time announced that air was going to go “24 ours” in “24 hours.” Sunnybrook was the base hospital and they went to the critical care areas to look for nursing staff to work on the aircraft. I jumped instantly to be part of this new venture. After three months of temporary staffing, the Ministry determined that they required an additional three full-time staff. I was successfully hired full time and trained as a critical care flight paramedic (CCFP). During the previous 10 years staffing, the same core group of paramedics staffed the aircraft, along with one nurse.
For memorable and funny, I would likely say getting pushed out of 799 by my partner at the time, John Hubert. We went for a female patient, unconscious on an island in Muskoka. The pilots could not land, so we were hovering, I had my headset off as I was throwing medical bags down to a person in a boat. The next thing I knew, there were two hands on my back pushing me out and down into the water. We brought the patient back on a backboard across the bow of the boat and then off to Sunnybrook.
For memorable and serious, I would say being honoured by my peers with the Richard J. Armstrong Leadership Award this year at AMEMSO. Each year, nominations are put forth to honour someone in EMS in Ontario who has shown exemplary leadership. This year, John Cunnane and I both received the award. I was honoured and humbled to be awarded along with John. A pivotal memorable part of my career is being able to meet and have time with Major General Rohmer and Mary O. The Major General is Canada’s most decorated citizen. He is a commander of the Order of Military Merit and Officer of the Order of Canada. His is a proud fighter pilot who earned a reputation as one of Canada’s top Mustang reconnaissance pilots. He has received the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying over the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He is also a lawyer, litigator, journalist and best-selling author. The General is an inspiration to all of us in EMS and to all of us in Canada.
I would say it is staffing and keeping paramedics motivated in uncertain times and during changing times where there is a greater emphasis on technology for patient care. EMS is a physically and mentally challenging career and like any career, you have to find your own value in what you contribute and put into work every day. Not everyone can self motivate, so providing opportunities for paramedics to develop themselves personally and academically is a challenge. It is a challenge for all employers. We are fortunate in Muskoka to be able to offer training, field trials, equipment evaluations and paramedic committee involvement to keep paramedics involved in the planning and progression of our program.
For everyone to readily recognize Paramedicine as a career and profession and not call us “ambulance drivers.”
I am a big fan of our Grey Island, AVL GPS, and have been using Medtronic products for many years for patient care. Our newest technology is moving to Electronic Patient Care Records through Interdev. This is exciting for us from a paper management and expediency point of view as well as having readily available data for analysis and program development. Personally, I think paramedics will enjoy the electronic data capture and the ease at which their LP15s will sync with other EPCR technologies to capture patient data and reduce the time required for manually writing out ACRs.
What does the future of EMS look like?
I think EMS in Ontario looks particularly bright. During the last decade since ambulance downloading from the province, most services in Ontario have improved service to the public, and excelled at offering training and education to paramedics. Muskoka is working on a capital plan for a new headquarters and part of that will be our Academic Centre. Our long term goal is to have an accredited training program here in Muskoka. I think patients in Ontario should feel very confident. Our paramedics are highly trained, and highly skilled and highly valued.
The funniest is hard to pick, since most calls on Air were very severe, most of the “fun” happened around the base while waiting for a call, or talking to our Quality Regulation Officer, Paramedic Tim Waite. He has all the good stories.
Enjoying our 1984 SideWinder boat and living with my family in Muskoka.
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