IN THE CANADIAN ARMED FORCES
Whether it’s in the heat of battle in a war torn nation, or a relief effort in the aftermath of an earthquake, in the Canadian Armed Forces, the role of Medical Technician takes on dimensions never imagined on a city street. For the men and women who accept the challenge, a career as a Med Tech brings moments of intense action – and a lifetime of immense rewards. At base clinics, at sea, on field exercises and on deployments in other parts of the world, Medical Technicians are a critical part of the military mission.
I’m Master Seaman Jennifer Blanche from St-John’s, Newfoundland, a Medical Technician posted at 1 Canadian Field Hospital in Garrison Petawawa, Ontario.
And I’m Corporal Patrick Noreau from Québec City. I’m a Medical Technician and I’m currently serving in the Canadian Forces Health Centre, Ottawa.
BLANCHE: In the Canadian Armed Forces, Medical Technicians spend most of their careers working directly with members of Army, Navy and Air Force units on bases across Canada, and at sea aboard naval ships. We work with doctors, nurses and physician assistants to provide acute and chronic healthcare services to Forces members.
BLANCHE: We do everything from patient screening and lab work, and treating patients on a general day-to-day basis.
NOREAU: You can work on a ship, you can work in a helicopter, you can work on the ground with the infantry… So, you get to work in different parts of the world, too, in different situations, so natural disasters, war zones, training with other countries. It’s always new environments, new people, new elements, new types of injuries according to where you work.
BLANCHE: You really have to call upon all your skill sets as a medic, be it your abilities to provide clinical care or pre-hospital emergency care. When Medical Technicians deploy, they provide the full spectrum of care to all military members serving on the mission.
NOREAU: My last deployment was in Eastern Europe. I was embedded within an infantry platoon. It was amazing, I mean, the relationship that you develop within your group is very unique to the Forces.
BLANCHE: Whether it’s providing initial care for patients, working on trauma cases or participating in rescues for accidents involving military vehicles or facilities – the work we do can be diverse and adventurous.
NOREAU: Right now, I’m in a clinic, I can be here for a few years. Then I’ll be sent to the Pacific coast for a few years, I can be sent overseas in an embassy. Very few trades within the Canadian Armed Forces have this opportunity to always be on the move or to follow the troops wherever they go.
BLANCHE: I travelled in 2010 to Haiti during the earthquake. We ended up seeing over 10,000 patients. Our entire team of the medical operation down there was only 30 people. So to see 10,000 patients in less than 60 days was amazing and it was very busy.
NOREAU: The training, experience, and level of responsibility is equal to or greater than what you would expect in comparable civilian occupations, but the Forces offers paid education and opportunities to travel. Military medics earn a salary while they are in training and then walk right into their careers. No student loans; no job search.
BLANCHE: Your first posting will be with a healthcare unit on a Canadian Armed Forces base. There, you’ll have 18 months of on-the-job training at the end of which you’ll be a fully qualified Medical Technician able to deploy on international missions.
BLANCHE: As a Medical Technician, the patients that you’re treating most often are your friends, they’re your co-workers. You see them every day.
NOREAU: This is very unique to the Forces – where you’re “it”. You need to know, you really need know your stuff. You need to be, like, super sharp.
BLANCHE: Medical Technicians in the Forces have opportunities to train with civilian agencies to maintain and improve our skills. On occasion, military medics will ride along with civilian paramedics in an ambulance, adding to an already impressive skill-set.
NOREAU: Your skills are consistently put to the test and there is a great deal of personal gratification when you make a difference in someone’s life.
NOREAU: As a Medical Technician, it’s pretty gratifying to be in that position where you get to know people personally, the trust that you’re given by your patients. I think that would be the biggest reward of being a Medical Technician.
BLANCHE: The leadership and the knowledge and the confidence that this job has brought me and has afforded me, I think that half of my friends back home would never recognize me. The adventure and the excitement and the friendship and the people here are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a civilian job.