“Mama Bear” Proud of her Paramedic Students’ Success

Affectionately known by her present and past students as “Mama Bear” for her caring and protective nature, Isabelle Richard Basque is the Lead Instructor for Medavie HealthEd’s French language Primary Care Paramedic program (PCP) in Tracadie, bringing 27 years of experience as a paramedic to her role.

“My students are very much my kids. I give my 100% in teaching them all the tools and support they need to succeed and become highly qualified paramedics.”

Tracadie is one of five campuses across Canada where Medavie HealthEd educates and trains students to become paramedics. Medavie HealthEd’s rigorous curriculum and hands-on practical training are delivered by experienced and skilled educators like Isabelle.

Accredited by Accreditation Canada, Medavie HealthEd is a longstanding provider of paramedic education in Atlantic Canada and a key training partner of the Department of National Defence for the Canadian Armed Forces.


Graduates get jobs

Graduates of the Tracadie program have a high rate of success in getting licensed to practice as paramedics and finding work immediately, with 96% obtaining their license the first time they attempt it ― the same percentage that are hired on their first job application.

“I truly believe it’s because of the amazing teaching team we have here. All of our Tracadie Campus instructors are former students of the Medavie HealthEd PCP program and are devoted to the success of every individual student and of our school.”

However, the first step in their career path is getting accepted into Isabelle’s class, Medavie HealthEd has an application process that includes an interview at the campus with her. She interviews all applicants to the Tracadie program to ensure they have what it takes to do this life-changing and life-saving line of work.

One of the questions she always asks is why they want to be a paramedic.

“The answer I want to hear is ‘I want to help. I want to make a difference. I want to have a job that’s not the same every day. I want to evolve as a person. I want to be part of something bigger.’ Those are all things that we’re looking for. Because it takes someone special person to become a paramedic.”

Skills for success

Isabelle says that to be successful, a paramedic must have empathy, be humble, be a team player, be punctual, possess strong communication skills, and have the desire to learn.

“You never stop learning. The prehospital field is always changing and sometimes it’s at a really fast pace.”

The PCP program begins with seven months of interactive classroom and practical simulation training, followed by four months of in-the-field clinical and practicum training to gain real-world experience.

Job opportunities

By the end of the program, students will have gained the skills, knowledge and confidence to start their careers in paramedicine.

“It prepares them for the many different types of calls that they will encounter and the mental and physical readiness they need to have a long and healthy career.”

Graduates can work anywhere from the frontlines of emergency response care to industrial medicine, private clinics, even cruise ships.

Many graduates of the Tracadie program choose to remain in the Acadian Peninsula. In fact, on a typical shift, 10 to 12 of the 16 paramedics on the road responding to emergency calls once sat in Isabelle’s classroom.

“When I’m out driving in my car and pass an ambulance, and one of my (former) student is in it, my heart skips a beat. It’s a proud 'mama bear' moment.”

Take a tour

Isabelle invites anyone thinking about a career in paramedicine to visit the Tracadie campus for a tour and to discover the many social and recreational activities that the scenic, coastal town of Tracadie and the whole Acadian Peninsula has to offer.

On tour, visitors will see students in labs practicing the subjects that Isabelle taught them, simulating real-life scenarios with their experienced lab facilitators.

After that, students spend 120 hours in a hospital setting to get a real-world view of patient care before they go “on the trucks,” paired with paramedics to follow their same work schedules for a total of 450 hours. On average, it will take students 14 months to complete their course, obtain a license to practice paramedicine and begin their career in public service.

You can’t do this line of work for any other reasons then wanting to make a difference. You have to do it for the right reasons. I always say that being a paramedic is a calling. It chooses you. You have to have this really strong desire to put someone else’s needs before yours. You have to realize that you’re walking into something bigger than yourself. What you have is a life of service to others in their dire need.”

Isabelle Richard Basque

No regrets

Once Isabelle answered the call as a paramedic, she never looked back.

“As soon as I opened my first book, I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. It kind of found me. I don’t think I found it. It found me.”

Her sister also became a paramedic, and the two worked together many times. She proudly notes that, on average, more than 55% of the students in her class and 43% of all Ambulance New Brunswick paramedics are female in what had been a predominantly male occupation when she began.

Originally from Tracadie, Isabelle started her career with the Canadian Red Cross Ambulance Services in Neguac in 1996. In 2000 she moved to Shippagan and worked for Les Ambulances de la Péninsule Inc., which included the Shippagan/Lamèque, Caraquet and Tracadie Ambulance services.

She worked there for 12 years in different roles in paramedicine, management, quality control and education. When Ambulance New Brunswick assumed administration of all services in the province in 2007, she came back to her hometown and returned to her role as an instructor.


Career rewards

Isabelle says that the most rewarding part of being a paramedic is making a difference in someone’s life. “The first time you save a life you’re never going to forget it. You can’t put words on what that means. And it’s not always the big calls that makes a mark on you,” she adds.

“Sometimes on long distance transfers you have long and meaningful conversations with your patient and it stays with you. Someone who is fighting for their life will teach you valuable life lessons on things we sometimes take for granted.”

With the increasing demands of the health care system, providing quality education is important. While this moves her away from the frontlines she is able to bring her experience and knowledge to the classroom to better prepare the students

“Honestly, I sometimes miss the calls, but every time I walk into this building and I see my students, I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Teaching is the thing that makes me really, really fulfilled and happy.”

Staying connected

Isabelle’s former students continue to reach out to her to talk if they have had a tough call; they know they can count on her being there if they need a listening ear.

“I’ve kept a lot of close relationships with my students after they go to the trucks. I’m proud they still feel that connection; that they want to reach out to me when they need it rather than pretending what they’re feeling is not valid.”

The esteem in which she is held by her students, as well as that of her peers, is on full display from sweatshirts and many coffee mugs she has received over the years inscribed with Mama Bear to the prestigious awards she holds, including the Emergency Medical Services Exemplary Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada and the Leadership Award from Medavie Health Services New Brunswick and Medavie HealthEd.

The most rewarding part of her role, however, happens yearly when she and the other Tracadie campus instructors see the next generation of paramedics graduate, knowing they have laid a solid foundation for their success.

To learn more about the PCP program in Tracadie, view this video and visit the Medavie HealthEd website to apply.

Isabelle team stairs

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