Specialist: Joint Program in Paramedicine
What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
When I first started applying for university programs, I was all the way in Malaysia and had no clue what paramedicine was. It wasn't even on my radar of programs to consider. Instead, I was accepted into the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Life Sci Co-op Program. I thoroughly enjoyed all the connections I made there, but I always felt like something was missing. Second year of school, I joined the Emergency Response Medical Response Group on campus, and I was hearing all these amazing stories from the joint program students. Everything about their program - their lift tests, their clinical rotations, their practical testing, appealed to me; and I immediately knew that this was where I belonged. This program provided the perfect balance between mastering the theoretical medical knowledge through mandatory UTSC courses, and acquiring the practical skills necessary to get a rewarding job as a paramedic. In addition, the ability to complete a degree and a diploma in less than 6 years was an incredible opportunity that I could not reject. Changing my program halfway through my degree was extremely tough, especially since I wanted to get into one of the most competitive programs of UTSC. However, Shelley Brunt - the program chair, was extremely helpful and supportive whilst being realistic and pragmatic about my chances of getting in. Despite the odds, I made it into the program and am having the time of my life.
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
This program is one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. It is fast-paced, challenging, physically-demanding, and will throw you curve balls at any time. That being said, it has also one of the most rewarding, close-knit, and fulfilling programs out there. Because of the small size of the program, everyone is family and class sizes are small. You get to know your classmates on a personal level and they will become your friends for life. All the alumni frequently come back to help students practice, and all our instructors are not only leaders in the industry, but also our friends who support us through our journey to become paramedics. This program also demands that you are able to think critically and are able to function under high amounts of pressure. Not only are you expected to master how to make clinical decisions whilst dealing with difficult patients, you are also expected to be able to accommodate the different learning style at university and understand that material as well. In addition, the physical demands of the lift tests also means that you are visiting the gym to be able to pass that component of school. When you put all these factors together, you quickly learn how to efficiently manage your time while having the ability to apply theoretical knowledge you learn at university to the practical application at the college.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
1) Volunteer. Join a volunteer medical group, whether that be St. John Ambulance or EMRG. I can personally say that if I hadn't volunteered with EMRG, I would not have gotten the head start that I did. All the hours that went into training and practicing scenarios helped me pass my first semester at the college side of the program. In addition, there are a lot of alumni who are part of EMRG who can support you and help you to navigate through the program. Volunteering as a first responder also gives you a little taste of the nature of the work. That will definitely help you decide if this program is for you.
2) Master your time. This program is very intense and requires A LOT of your time. The Centennial courses coupled with working out at the gym as well as making time to practice your skills will overwhelm you if you don't master your time-management skills. I have seen a lot of students fail because they simply could not manage all the different aspects of the program. That being said, if you are able to efficiently plan your schedule and put in the practice, you will be light years ahead.
3) Be comfortable outside your comfort zone. This program will change you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You will continually be challenged to come out of your comfort zone. Always push yourself to make every setback a positive learning experience and use it as motivation to fuel your next endeavor. Be open to new experience even if you aren't that comfortable with it. Talk to your professor, do that extra project, commit to an exercise plan. Do something every day that makes you uncomfortable and get used to it. You'll never grow without it.
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
My plan is (hopefully) to become a paramedic and work for as many years as I can. If I am unable to work anymore for whatever reason, I will have my degree which opens up so many different opportunities for work as opposed to just a diploma. I will probably try to do something related to teaching/mentoring future students. At the same time, I do know students who have gone on become doctors, physician assistants and nurses, so I might do that as well.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
I've had a slightly different academic journey than most just because I switched my program halfway through my degree. However, the basic timeline of the program first begins with a year of foundational science and psychology courses at UTSC. These basic first year courses help lay the foundation to prepare you for the rigorous demands of the college portion. Once that's over, your second and third year are spent at Centennial where you complete 3 lift tests, 4 practical exams, a semester of clinical rotations, and hundreds of hours volunteering on ambulances with a preceptor. These two years will be the most intense part of the program, and once you complete them, you are eligible to be hired as a paramedic. During your last year, you finish off with some third and fourth year UTSC courses to round off your knowledge with more specific in-depth courses in a variety of biological fields of your choosing.