After 44 years as a paramedic, Henry Stubbs is retiring from the profession.
His career started in the mid-1970s, while he was working at the Similkameen Mine in Princeton.
At the time, he took an industrial first aid course and became interested in paramedic work as a result.
He spent 31 years as a full-time paramedic in Penticton before transferring to Summerland, where he has worked part-time since 2008.
The job is not the same as the work depicted in movies and on television, he explained. “They’ll do more in a one-hour show than we do in a year,” he said.
However, one recent show has provided a more accurate depiction of the work. Paramedics: Life on the Line, which aired on the Knowledge Network, followed paramedics and dispatchers in British Columbia. While the timeline was condensed, the work showed an accurate portrayal of the work involved.
Stubbs said his work as a paramedic has changed considerably over the years.
When he started working as a paramedic in 1977, there was no 911 service and cell phone service did not yet exist.
While a radio service was in place in the valley, it did not cover rural areas in the mountains.
Now, with a dispatch service and cell phone service, paramedics have much better communications than they did when he started. This also makes the job safer.
“If we need help, we can talk to dispatch,” he said.
There are still some areas without communications, but the coverage is far better than it was.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought changes to his role as a paramedic, as masks and gloves are now worn on every call. When paramedics arrive at a call, they conduct a brief interview to determine if they need to wear full personal protective equipment.
In the early days of the pandemic, the rules and protocols were changing almost daily, he said.
Even now, more than a year into the pandemic, dealing with COVID-19 is still rough on first responders, he said.
While paramedic work has evolved over the years, Stubbs said the unpredictability is what he has enjoyed the most during his career.
However, the work is not for everyone, he added. For this reason, he suggests those interested in paramedic work also have another career plan.
“It’s a physical job. There’s not a whole lot of glamour in it,” he said. “It”s a good idea to have something else to fall back on.”