Champions in Health Care — Holly Poirier

To mark International Women’s Day 2021 on March 8, and throughout the month of March, we are honouring the women who help lead Medavie in our mission to improve the wellbeing of Canadians.

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Holly Poirier, Paramedic, Medavie Health Services West

As a leader, what would you say contributed to your success?

I was fortunate to have my mother, Sharon, as a mentor. She counselled me, that as a woman, there was nothing that I could not do. I received encouragement and positive nudges to try different things without judgment of failure. Having strong female preceptors (clinical instructors), mentors, and supervisors were also a factor in my success. They were always present, or their words were in my mind, telling me I could do it — until I believed I could.

How do you feel your role is helping you contribute to improving health care?

My role as a paramedic contributes to the wellbeing of Canadians from the moment we respond to a medical emergency. Our rigorous training ensures that our patients receive the best, most immediate care possible from a dedicated and knowledgeable first responder and health care provider. We are the first point of contact with a patient who relies on our skills to assess and stabilize them in sometimes perilous conditions.

What is your favourite part about your role?

Apart from helping people, my favourite part of being a paramedic is the challenge of the unknown. I never have the same day twice. I am required to think on my feet at all times and when we are able to help someone, emergency or not, it is very fulfilling.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

Prior to having my daughter, work-life balance was not an issue. My spouse works away from the city and the greatest obstacle has been arranging childcare to accommodate 12-hour shifts. This continues to be a challenge.

What is your best self-care advice?

Often, we see disturbing situations including trauma, death, and the pain endured by loved ones on the sidelines. My self-care is to remind myself not to bring those situations home with me, to clear my mind as best I can, before returning to my role as mother and spouse.

What barriers do women still face in advancing their careers?

A major barrier as a paramedic is starting a family. A paramedic must be physically and mentally strong. The endurance of a 12-hour shift during pregnancy is not only exhausting but dangerous. This is not simply because of the physical demands, but also because there are real dangers in providing patient care in volatile and emotional situations.

"My role as a paramedic contributes to the wellbeing of Canadians from the moment we respond to a medical emergency. Our rigorous training ensures that our patients receive the best, most immediate care possible from a dedicated and knowledgeable first responder and health care provider. We are the first point of contact with a patient who relies on our skills to assess and stabilize them in sometimes perilous conditions."

What advice would you share with young women looking to advance their career?

My advice to young women is to never give up. There are good days and bad days. Try to stay focused on the good days. Remind yourself of what you have accomplished and what is still let to accomplish. Find a mentor to show you how it’s done and then do it.

What do you do to stay on top of your game?

Given that health care is always evolving, and new methods are continually being developed, I make sure that I take an active part in continuing education. I regularly review new literature on methods, and I learn by watching from senior paramedics. I also attend annual continuing education classes.

What qualities does it take to succeed?

To succeed you need self confidence, determination, and motivation. When others say you cannot, a strong woman will say, “Maybe you cannot, but I have no doubt that I can.”

What do you do to challenge gender inequality?

It’s unfortunate that in today’s society we are still faced with sexism in some cases. I have been chastised when arriving at a call where men were requested. I explained my qualifications and that I was present to help their loved one.

Tell us one fun fact about you.

In 2008, I achieved a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

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