HEALTH CARE ADMINISTRATION OFFICER
COOMBS: In a quick-moving, modern military, whether health care needs to be delivered in a garrison clinic or during an operational deployment, keeping the system running smoothly is a huge challenge -- and a great satisfaction.
I’m Major Cybèle Coombs from Chelsea, Quebec, and I’m a Health Care Administration Officer in the Canadian Forces.
And I’m Lieutenant Jacques Pinard from Bouctouche, New Brunswick. I’m a Health Care Administration Officer from 1 Field Ambulance, Edmonton.
PINARD: It’s our job to manage the delivery of health care to Canada’s soldiers, sailors and Air Force personnel - that’s 63 thousand men and women across Canada and wherever our troops are required abroad.
COOMBS: Being a Health Care Administrator in the Canadian Forces -- what we call an HCA -- calls for the same business and management skills required to manage a clinic or hospital in civilian life, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
As a platoon commander when you’ve just graduated university, you are anywhere from 21 to 24 years of age and leading 30 people in a potential mission overseas and that’s something that most civilians do not get to experience at the early age of 21.
PINARD: As a Commissioned Officer, you will manage and lead a team of health care professionals who provide health services to the Canadian Forces. You will undergo various types of training to assist you in administering your responsibilities.
COOMBS: My role or a Health Care Administrator’s role is to help physicians, as well as other members of the health care team take care of the administration so that they can go ahead and treat patients.
Advancing to the rank of Major has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career -- the salary, pension plan and benefits are exceptional. But I’m also the mother of two young children with what I guess you’d call a normal life outside working hours.
Here at Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, my workday isn’t much different from HCAs in the civilian community. However, when we’re deployed, our skills, training and ability to lead really kick in.
PINARD: Where I fit in, I’m the one that will initially receive the information that patients are coming here, so I advise the duty medical officer who then makes clinical decisions as to what kind of trauma teams need to be here, what kind if specialists need to be here and whatnot, maybe call in some key personnel so that they are aware of it, they’re within arm’s reach, so that we can pluck them at any time and then, I just keep relaying messages as they come in.
COOMBS: If this sounds good to you, there are three ways to join us.
PINARD: If you’ve already earned a university degree in Health Care, Business Administration or Human Resource Management, the Canadian Forces may accept you through what they call the Direct Entry Officer plan.
COOMBS: Or if you’re considering going to university, you may be eligible for the Regular Officer Training Plan. The Canadian Forces will cover your full tuition all the way through university at the Royal Military College or another accredited Canadian university. They’ll guarantee you a summer job and pay you a salary while you study in exchange for your commitment to serve for a minimum of five years once you graduate.
PINARD: Either way, you’ll start your military career at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for Basic Officer Training. That’s where I learned what being an officer is all about -- whether you’re an HCA or a battlefield commander.
COOMBS: The third option is joining the reserves as an HCA. You can parade once a week and one weekend a month and have the opportunity of summer employment while attending university or continuing part-time once you’ve joined the civilian workforce. As a reservist, you may also have the opportunity of working full-time.
PINARD: When you’ve completed your Basic Training, you’ll receive your Commission and a promotion to Lieutenant in the Army or Air Force or sub-lieutenant in the Navy.
COOMBS: Then you’ll spend up to half a year at the Canadian Forces Medical Services School located at Canadian Forces Base Borden in Ontario. That’s where you’ll learn how health care is delivered in the Canadian Forces.
PINARD: When you’ve completed your initial HCA training, you’ll finally be ready to take on your first posting as a junior Health Care Administration Officer at an operational unit or at one of the Canadian Forces clinics across the country.
I find a lot of pride in that, that we are there for those that are fighting the battle and we are there to provide them the best care possible that we can give them.
COOMBS: It’s something that’s hard to put into words. I was the last person you ever would have expected to choose a career in the military. I was always the artsy one at school. But being an officer in the Canadian Forces and serving my country and having had the opportunity to help others internationally, well, it’s just a great, great feeling. I really hope you’ll join us.