To honour our ambulance communications officers (ACOs) and to underscore the complexity and vital importance of the frontline services they deliver, OPSEU has created and posted a video to coincide with National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which this year is observed April 14-20.
It started in the US in 1981 and is observed in a number of other countries. Canada has yet to recognize the week – but OPSEU is not waiting for government to recognize the vital contribution that ACOs make 24 hours a day, seven days a week. OPSEU knows the key role they plan in providing sick or injured Ontarians with access to medical care as quickly as possible.
Being an ACO is not for the faint-hearted. They receive months of intense training, and many leave the program before it’s finished. Many more leave soon after beginning work. The ones who stay on are exceptionally proficient and have all the special skills and abilities needed to provide exceptional service.
They have a quick and clear mind, outstanding communications skills and in the midst of panic they’re a calming and reassuring voice. They have nerves of steel, and the ability to make quick decisions and multitask under extremely stressful conditions. One mistake, one delay or one misunderstanding could mean the difference between life and death.
Is anyone surprised that these hardworking members suffer from burnout and high rates of PTSD? In fact, they are covered by PTSD legislation – and well they should be. Further, they’re required to work gruelling 12-hours shifts, day and night, weekends and holidays. So in addition to the stress of work, there is the ever-present difficulty of maintaining personal relationships and home life.
ACOs are truly extraordinary individuals who sacrifice so much to help ensure individuals and families in every corner of the province get the right help, where they need it, when emergencies occur. They are heroes, and OPSEU is extremely proud to represent them.
A few of our heroes appear in the video, which gives you a glimpse into what they do for us every day. One of them may help save your life one day. Take a few moments to watch it.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida