A graduate of both the primary care and advanced care paramedic programs at Georgian College himself, Garrett Hookey admits he has a vested interest in the graduates the school produces. The advanced care Simcoe County paramedic knows the difference well trained paramedics can make when they arrive to help in time of an emergency.

“The reality is that, at the end of the day, these new students are going to be the ones picking up my parents,” said Hookey, who graduated from the Georgian primary program in 2012, before returning to the Barrie campus and graduating from the advanced care program in August 2017.

Which is why funding for these programs at Georgian is so important and why Hookey was thrilled to learn about the $500,000 cheque Simcoe County presented to the school’s Sadlon Centre for Health, Wellness and Sciences in early February. The money represented the final pledge payment in the county’s $2-million commitment to the centre.

“I think Georgian College offers a great opportunity to really start from nothing and start from having no experience,” Hookey said. “They really bring you through the program at a gradual and progressive pace that allows you, two years later, to graduate very competent and ready for the workforce.”

Hookey grew up in Vancouver and moved to California where he attended high school and university. He worked as a paramedic in California before moving back to Canada and settling in Muskoka. Knowing he wanted to continue in the profession here, Hookey talked to contacts he had in paramedic services and fire departments. It became clear that Georgian College offered everything he needed. He moved to Barrie in 2010 to attend the local campus.

“I was told Georgian produced graduates who were ready for the work force, who were respected by the work force,” he said. “And in a competitive job market, the graduates at Georgian always seemed to do well compared to other programs, or specifically in Barrie, the private programs.”

Paramedicine for Hookey is derived from his enjoyment of emergency medicine. His undergraduate degree is in athletic therapy and, from that, he was exposed to a variety of injuries and treatment options for athletes. He really enjoyed the ability to help in an emergency situation or in an acute injury. What would really drive him to the advanced care paramedic program at Georgian was the ability to help individuals – the ability to change somebody’s day by showing up, being a competent, calm individual and being able to bring that calmness to the patient as well.

“There are very few people that can go to their jobs every day and really say that they’ve change somebody else’s day or they really made an impact on somebody else and we do that every day,” Hookey explained. “Not a shift goes by where you don’t come in contact with one or two patients and the reality is that you have the ability or the opportunity to really change and impact their day.

Very early on at Georgian, Hookey says he and the other students were taught the saying “It’s not your emergency.” With that in the back of their minds, they have the ability to stay calm and bring that into every call.

“I think the calming influence comes from knowing that you are competent at your job,” Hookey said and he credits Georgian College for that.

“It’s done over two semesters instead of three months,” he said. “That really allows you to absorb some of the experiences you had as a student and learn from those experiences.”

Hookey points out the program’s strength also lies with the facilities at Georgian. The Sadlon Centre has allowed for what he says is an excellent paramedic lab.

“I know they have unprecedented technology that can be used there along with props and equipment that no other colleges have,” said Hookey, who added that, with the college in a distinctive location, the student has the opportunity to take part in both rural and urban calls and patient interactions are different.

Photo: Simcoe Country advanced care paramedic Garrett Hookey is a graduate of Georgian College’s paramedic program. He says the program is top notch and helped him prepare for the workforce in every way. Photo courtesy of Heather Meadley.