Emergency Health Services Adds Nurses to 911 Team
Emergency Health Services (EHS) is adding more resources to its medical communications centre to manage non-life-threatening calls so paramedics can focus on emergencies.
Starting in November, a registered nurse will join the clinical support paramedic and physician at the centre to give medical advice and treatment options to callers.
People calling 911 with a medical issue will be prioritized and whenever necessary an ambulance will be sent. If the call is health-related but does not need paramedic assistance, the caller may be transferred to the EHS nurse, who will assess the patient, plan treatment and provide medical advice.
“In an emergency, every second matters, so we must make sure every second counts,” said Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness. “This will help ensure paramedics are dispatched to the most urgent calls, while also providing immediate medical advice and assistance for those not requiring an ambulance.”
The EHS Medical Communications Centre will be the third centre in Canada to have a nurse on staff and the first to have a nurse, clinical support paramedic and physician all on-site.
Adding a nurse to the centre builds on recent efforts to improve emergency care and response times by providing additional support for paramedics. These efforts include:
- the addition of an on-site physician at the communications centre last November to provide real-time clinical support for paramedics, Nova Scotia Health healthcare providers and patients
- new non-paramedic positions, created in 2021 with more staff added this year, to handle routine patient transfers, with a goal of freeing up more paramedic crews to respond to emergencies
- screening patients taken to emergency departments to see if they can wait safely in a waiting room instead of with a paramedic; this direct-to-triage initiative, launched in June, allows paramedics to get on the road and respond to emergencies rather than staying with low-risk patients waiting to be seen by a doctor.
Nova Scotians are reminded that 911 is for medical emergencies and calls for health advice should be directed to 811, which is staffed by registered nurses around the clock, seven days a week.
Today is a significant announcement for Nova Scotia with being the first medical communications centre in Canada to have on-site a paramedic specialist, nurse and physician to assist callers to 911 medical communications. This is another piece to the complexity faced in providing the right resource to the right patient at the right time and will assist our valued paramedics in their delivery of patient care where it is needed most urgently. There are many other initiatives being looked at collaboratively to assist in the retention and workplace improvements for our paramedics as we move forward to meet the challenges paramedics face on a daily basis.
Kevin MacMullin, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 727
What made me really want to come to this position is that it puts me in a place where I can help people at the start of their care and identify the different pathways they can access. It interested me to be a part of a brand new program and build it from the ground up as one of the first people in this role, which will help people get the right care at the right time. I’m really excited to be with the MCC clinical team and get started.
Jessica Chisholm, registered nurse, EHS Medical Communications Centre
- clinical support paramedics have worked alongside EHS communications officers since 2012; they help on-scene paramedics make decisions on emergency care and moving patients between healthcare facilities
- in 2021, the EHS Medical Communications Centre received 183,500 calls; about 112,000 were emergency and urgent
- about 31 per cent of the emergency and urgent calls did not require patient transport
- since September 2021, non-urgent patient transfers by paramedics have been reduced significantly – paramedics have handled 25 per cent of those transfers, down from 86 per cent
Emergency Health Services: https://novascotia.ca/dhw/ehs/
News release – Emergency Health Services to Hire 100 Transport Operators: https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20220706001
News release – Direct to Triage Policy Effective June 1: https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20220531002