making a difference: Brian Postma on his 27-year career as paramedic

making a difference: Brian Postma on his 27-year career as paramedic
Brian Postma

By Valerie Posthumus

The Haldimand Press

Meet Brian Postma, a lifelong resident of Dunnville, husband to Jennifer and dad to Ethan and Benjamin, and Primary Care Paramedic for Haldimand County Paramedic Services.

In his own words, “After 27 years I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

He doesn’t mind the shift work and in his off time he enjoys spending quality time with his family and friends, which he is doing more of since he and wife Jennifer are unable to travel.

His father was a paramedic, which appealed to Postma from a young age “because of the challenges involved in the job, but also somewhat the independence of the job as well.”

Postma said, “Paramedics have a distinct skill set that we’re trained to do and we’re authorized to do by our base hospital physician.”

Paramedics must rely on their own knowledge, skills, and abilities to care for the patient. The challenge is in having to make decisions in the moment that you believe “would best benefit the patient,” based on judgment, training, and skill sets that are acquired through experience. “There is a lot of oversight, but when it actually comes down to performing the job there is a lot of independence and a lot of critical decision making that needs to be done.”

“The most important skill for a paramedic would be decision making,” said Postma. “We’re in a very dynamic field. We can train for a specific scenario but in 27 years I’ve never done the same call twice because something is always different. Being able to realize that we have a toolbox of skills that we use and we have to be able to apply that … you know you have to make that decision because no one else is going to make that decision for you. Being decisive and being able to come up with that decision is a key skill that you need as a paramedic.”

There are many aspects to the job and many reasons why people choose this career path. Some want to save a life, deliver a baby, or have their own checklist of reasons. “It’s not a job that you get into to look for recognition, it’s a job that you get into that end of the day you know you’ve made a difference,” said Postma.

“A lot of times we go to people who are experiencing emotional crisis or it’s not the best day of their life,” Postma said. He stressed that sometimes making a difference is just treating patients with respect and kindness, without judgment, and while listening to them. At the end of the day it’s “just knowing that you’ve made a difference at some point in time to somebody’s life, that’s the most rewarding aspect of the job.”

The greatest challenge is the flip side of that, said Postma. “Dealing with the emotional side of the job, because you do see people at their absolute worst, whether they are physically injured or physically ill or interacting with a family after they have just lost a loved one and you have to tell them that their loved one isn’t going to be back or they haven’t responded to the treatment you have rendered to them. You don’t want to take that home.”

Coping skills are very necessary in the paramedic field. In Halidimand, the Paramedic Services are a relatively small service, so they have a very close-knit group. Postma said, “I can attribute the fact that some of my closest friendships are solely related because of this job. That’s definitely one of the aspects of the job that’s a benefit is having that support system because you need it.”

At the end of the day they support each other, whether it’s talking it out at the end of the shift or utilizing the employee assistance programs offered by their employer. They stick together when there’s been a bad shift so they don’t take it home.

“The process for becoming a paramedic is probably going to be one of the most stressful times you’ll go through because of education, training, and then hiring processes and at the end of the day it’s a job, but it is very rewarding. You just need to have the right mindset to do it,” concluded Postma.

In his free time, Postma is the program coordinator for a private college in Stoney Creek that delivers the paramedic program.

“It kind of reenergizes you when it comes to the career path itself, they come with a lot of energy,” said Postma on training the new recruits. He also enjoys playing softball with his sons and on a co-ed team, playing golf, and travelling.

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