When you think of an emergency medical services person, you usually think paramedic. And while this isn’t inaccurate, it’s also not the full story about the paramedic profession in Alberta.

Paramedicine has three different designation levels that are recognized to work in Alberta. The three designation levels are Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), Primary Care Paramedic (PCP) and Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP). Each designation has education requirements and a standard skill level that must be demonstrated before being granted a practice permit by the College. The three levels are tiered, meaning each successive level incorporates and exceeds the competencies of the previous level.

To understand the different designations, the National Occupational Competency Profile (NOCP) contains integrated competency sets describing the expectations for each of the three levels.

Historically, EMRs have been the medical first responder in rural and remote communities. They are often associated with volunteer emergency services organizations and may be the sole provider of emergency medical services in some communities. EMRs may be responsible for initial assessments, the provision of safe and prudent care, and the transport of a patient to the most appropriate healthcare facility.

Primary Care Paramedics constitute the largest group of paramedics in Alberta. Skills and competencies that are taught at the PCP level include intravenous cannulation (which is the process of inserting an IV to administer fluids or withdraw blood) and the administration of certain medications. PCPs are also starting to work in hospital and clinical settings, as well as in the community offering ongoing, preventative care to patients in their homes.

To become an ACP, most education programs require certification at the PCP level and at least one year of work experience at the PCP level. ACPs apply their added knowledge and skills to provide enhanced levels of assessment and care. Skills and competencies at the ACP level include advanced techniques to manage life-threatening problems. ACPs can surgically place a tube in a patient’s throat to help them breathe, administer medications that can speed up, slow down or restart a heartbeat, and use complicated diagnostic tools to identify and treat a number of serious medical conditions. Basically, it’s like bringing the emergency department directly to the patient. In many cases, this enhanced level of early treatment vastly improves patient outcomes.

Each of the three designations play an important role in providing paramedicine throughout Alberta. Although there are some programs in Alberta that allow for equivalencies to be used, generally, each level of education must be achieved before the next. All the skills and competencies achieved at each designation sets a foundation that can be continuously developed and expanded through continuing competence and education.

For more information on each designation/level or any questions, please contact the College at communications@ABparamedics.com. If you are interested in becoming an EMR or paramedic in Alberta, please view the approved education programs here.