Two paramedics with a passion to support their peers and the grit to follow their desires to see change in a profession they both love, with a community of others supporting them.
The development of EMS Peer Support & Wellness Solutions came truly from grassroots initiatives aimed at supporting the well-being of EMS practitioners’.
Mark has been a long time Peer Support member and has seen a flurry of change in the program over his years on the team. In 2014, it was evident more support and attention was needed not only to the Peer Support program, but towards supporting the membership. The stressors of the job and the inherent risks of experiencing traumatic calls, human suffering and operational/organization stressors are all consuming. Molly experienced these results on a visceral level, as did many others, which sparked in her a deep desire to make a change. In 2015, the loss of one of their fellow paramedics due to suicide propelled the mission into fifth gear. With organizational support and nomination from the membership a Mental Health Task Force Team was created where Molly, Mark and five others began to research best practices and industry standards across Canada and Internationally. A technical paper titled “Development of a Psychological Support System: Establishing a Healthy Mental Workplace” resulted from this work. These recommendations were submitted to the employer….and the door to change was beginning to crack open.
Over the last 5 years, Mark and Molly with collaborative support from their peers and leadership in the organization grew the peer support program from 10 members in 2015 to at most 140 members. By 2021 the Peer Support membership settle at just over 120 active and dedicated members. The creation and sustainability of wellness initiatives (as listed below) in addition to the creation of enhanced, consistent community connection opportunities has now forced the door to change wide open.
A Peer Support Team was created in Edmonton Zone EMS in 2015 to support the membership, connect people to resources and build relationships. Developed and maintained through volunteerism, this group has created numerous programs which are solely funded through the generosity of donors and fundraising.
“Our Peer Support Team is a remarkable group of individuals that empower staff to be their best and show up as their best. A group of over a hundred individuals who give so much of themselves to support others, especially throughout the pandemic. The EMS practitioners throughout the Edmonton Zone have also been a big part of this success story. Collectively showing their unwavering patronage in supporting the mission to create a psychologically safe workplace that is people centered. So, we want to stop right there and say…..Thank you for supporting your peers and improving the workplace!”- Molly Varga
Moving into the Future...
We are excited to highlight the good work that is being done to improve the psychological wellness of our practitioners.
This effort has been a collective one by all; we recognize this and truly appreciate all the support. The role of the EMS Peer Support & Wellness Solutions will continue the work at supporting EMS practitioners as much as possible, for as long as possible.
The work moving forward through EMS Peer Support & Wellness Solutions is done so as a separate entity that offers sponsorship to those same Peer Support programs and wellness initiatives delivered through the Edmonton Zone Peer program. In addition, EMS Peer Support & Wellness Solutions will grow the opportunity to sponsor other Peer Support program wellness initiatives throughout the province.
Through Peer Support initiatives over the last few years any money that was raised from ticket sales from annual educational events, such as Dr. Jody Carrington (2019), and the gracious donations of local businesses such as Hilton & Staff (our very own Bill Hilton and daughter Courtney) Charities such as Legacy Place Society, and EMS Foundation, our EMS Leadership and individuals themselves were all held under the informal title “Peer Support Fund.”
With these collective funds, the EZ Peer Support program was able to support the membership through the following ways:
* Platoon Breakfast / Quarterly Alumni Breakfasts
* Mother’s Day BBQ-massage therapist, roses, gift basket drawers, and lunch
* Annual Educational Events (2017 Family night, 2018 Other Side of the Hero, 2019 Dr. Jody Carrington)
* Hold Zen Den classes- yoga, learn to meditate, maintain/replace equipment or products
* Provide food/drink for practitioners during CISM defusings
* Peer initiatives such as:
* Christmas Give Away
* New Years Eve Draw
* Annual Easter Hunt
* Canada Day
* Recognizing Significant Life Events: Birth of a baby
* Benevolent gifts accident/illness
* Morale boosting/Act of Kindness initiatives- Tim’s cards delivered to individuals and dept. to recognize those going above and beyond.
EMS Peer Support & Wellness Solutions, a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) has been created as a way to ensure the sustainability of the programs that currently exist from the collaborative support of those organizations it sponsors. In addition, to enhance equitable opportunity to foster other Peer Support programs and wellness initiatives across the province.
By transitioning the informal “Peer Support Fund” under the name of EMS Peer Support & Wellness Solutions Ltd. it has allowed us to continue supporting the work in a more formal way. It has provided the NPO an autonomous body to apply for community and government grants to expand our work supporting the physical and psychological well-being of our EMS practitioners’.
Note: EMS Peer Support & Wellness Solutions is an independent Non-Profit Organization who is a separate entity from those 3rd parties it supports.
The role of the non-profit centers on fundraising and sponsoring events that foster first responder well-being and community connection through Peer Support initiatives and preventative psychological wellness programs. The current activities and roles of EMSPSWS are volunteer driven. Any new programs or initiatives that EMSPSWS may wish to sponsor will be done so through a joint partnership with the receiving organization or entity.