One skill set, two uniforms: Toronto paramedics also work for Army Reserve

25 Field Ambulance, Toronto reservists participated in the St. Luke's medical skills competition and competed against CAF Reserve medics from Central and Eastern Canada, as well as a U.S. Reserve unit.

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For 10 members of Toronto Paramedic Services, using the same skill set while wearing two different uniforms is a way to serve both their local communities and their country.

In addition to their regular job as paramedics, they work part-time with 25 Field Ambulance (25 Fd Amb). The Reserve medical unit is based at Moss Park Armoury, Toronto which currently employs roughly 100 reservists.

“Both careers complement each other and I get to use my experience in one job to benefit the other,” says Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Wionzek, a paramedic in Toronto and Commanding Officer of 25 Fd Amb. “As a civilian paramedic, I encounter real-life situations on a daily basis where I need to apply my medical skills. When I was a military medic, I was able to use those same skills during Army exercises or operations.”

Army medical technicians work in collaboration with doctors, nurses, and physicians’ assistants to provide medical care and advice to CAF personnel. As part of their duties, medics can offer pre-hospital care for patients and provide basic life-support treatments in cases of trauma. They also recover casualties from their point of injury to transport them to a medical facility by wheeled, tracked, or air ambulance.

The Reserve Force of the Canadian military augments and supports the work of the Regular Force, and reservists regularly deploy on Canada’s international and domestic operations. It can sometimes be a challenge for reservists to balance the requirements of their civilian employer and military unit, as well as family commitments and other activities.

“I think that Toronto Paramedic Services benefits from my military background, in the sense that the Reserves have instilled in me a sense of duty, discipline, and loyalty,” adds LCol Wionzek. “I always strive to be a better clinician and, because I’ve encountered emergencies in both my civilian and military roles, I have more confidence in my own ability to handle any situation.”

Recently, 25 Fd Amb hosted the St. Luke’s medical skills validation exercise, an annual competition among Reserve medics from Central and Eastern Canada to demonstrate medical knowledge and skills. Eight Canadian Army units participated in the competition alongside members of 329th General Ambulance, a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Pennsylvania. Several events and scenarios tested medics’ skills, including providing emergency care to the passengers of a vehicle that struck an improvised explosive device.

Toronto Paramedic Services Chief Paul Raftis and Deputy Chief Garrie Wright attended the competition, using the opportunity to learn about military medical procedures and to observe their employee-reservists in action.

“Through the training in the military, these Reserve medics enter our workplace prepared to perform key leadership roles in our organization,” said Chief Raftis.

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