Expanded online delivery model allows for more flexibility, accessibility for ACP students across B.C.
The strong demand for Advanced Care Paramedics (ACPs) in British Columbia is being met with the help of changes that are making the ACP program at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) more flexible and accessible for students.
JIBC’s Advanced Care Paramedic program, currently the only one accredited in B.C., has actually benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic which helped make conversion of courses to online formats a top priority.
“The inclusion of more online content, while maintaining adequate hands-on instruction for new skill development, in the ACP program will no doubt help JIBC meet the continued demand for this higher level of paramedics in the province,” said Kathy Harms, Director of JIBC’s Health Sciences Division. “We would also like to thank B.C. Emergency Health Services and the province’s health authorities for helping to keep our students moving forward in their practicum training during this challenging time.”
Advanced Care Paramedics are trained in higher-level skills such as cardiac care, sedation and intubation. ACP students in B.C. are typically already employed as Primary Care Paramedics (PCPs) and take educational leave to attend the JIBC program, while taking on PCP shifts when they can to make ends meet.
Prior to the change in the JIBC program, which results in an advanced diploma, ACP students were required to be on campus for lectures and practical training for three days a week, said Oliver Oxbury, Lead Instructor for the ACP program. During the approximately 20-month program they would receive theory classes in the mornings followed by practical training in the afternoons. Today, the program starts off with four weeks of classes conducted online, followed by alternating two-week periods of online-only classes and hands-on training and assessments held at the New Westminster campus.
“What we’re hoping with the online model is it’ll be much easier for them to pick up their shifts whilst they’re doing online sessions and near where they normally work as a PCP rather than having to add in an extra hour or so travel time to relocate to a new area to find work,” said Oxbury, noting the feedback so far has been very positive.
“Generally the students have liked it from a work-life balance perspective,” he said. There has also been good feedback on how the online content is being delivered, likely aided by the fact that all the previous hands-on training continues to be taught in person.
JIBC’s ACP program graduates continue to perform well in the national qualifying exam of the Canadian Organization of Paramedic Regulators – exceeding the national average in both pass rates and overall scores in the most recent results – which they are required to pass before being licensed to practise in B.C.
Harms noted that paramedic training around the world is moving towards a model more focused on higher learning, increased participation in research, and academic credentials, meaning public, post-secondary institutions such as JIBC are well-suited to adapt to such changes. In addition to the change in delivery models, JIBC is also updating its ACP curriculum to include expanded content on intercultural communication, leadership and teamwork, and evidence-based clinical approaches to patient care being introduced in the province, she said.
The ACP program is offered at JIBC’s New Westminster and Victoria campuses, and an offering is planned for the Kelowna campus with a cohort to start in September 2021.
For current ACP student Steven Sulyok the new format has been a boon to his pursuit of an ACP qualification after 18 years as a PCP. He has managed to balance his family, work and school life, while also saving time and money from reducing travel from his home outside Nanaimo to the New Westminster campus which often necessitates staying overnight with family and friends.
“Personally, I find this option fantastic as this model allows the student to review the online lesson as many times as they wish as every lesson and lecture is recorded,” said Sulyok. “Simply put, the education delivery model offered by JIBC needed to be cutting edge in order to deliver the education effectively in these extraordinary times. The Justice Institute of British Columbia has done an incredibly great job with the short amount of time that JIBC has had to assemble and roll out the current online model.”