When Charlie isn’t gnawing on sandals and playing with her two dog brothers  at home, the 10-month-old chocolate Lab is helping local paramedics open up  about the daily stresses of the job. 

At Wednesday’s county council meeting, the specially trained “facility dog”  was formally introduced as Peterborough County’s newest hire by Sandra Giles,  superintendent of quality assurance, clinical development and support at  Peterborough County-City Paramedics (PCCP). 

For the past three weeks, the support canine has been working alongside  Giles, who, as superintendent, provides quality assurance through face-to-face  correspondence with paramedics. 

As part of her role with PCCP, Giles meets with paramedics after stressful,  upsetting or high-pressure calls for service. She sits down with paramedics to  discuss their clinical care and the quality of their care in real-time. 

PCCP decided to bring Charlie on board as part of a push to foster a quality  assurance approach that focuses more on communication, connection and  transparency. 

“We’re trying to get away from, ‘you’ve had a stressful event, we’re going to  review your form and where you’ve made a mistake,’ to ‘let’s review your form  together in person — you, me and Charlie. Let’s sit down and see what areas you  struggled in and how we could do it better next time,’” explained Giles in an  interview with The Examiner. 

Through this approach, Charlie, who was donated to PCCP by the non-profit  organization Badge of Life Canada, visits Peterborough paramedics with Giles at  local bases or the Peterborough Regional Health Centre. 

“Charlie and I are a mobile unit. We’ll go around and visit crews and create  a comfortable atmosphere for communication,” Giles said. “Normally, talking  about hard topics doesn’t happen easily.” 

But when Giles and Charlie stop by — paramedics have come to call their  drop-ins “Charlie visits” — paramedics tend to speak more freely and openly  about general stressors or specific incidents. 

“My hope is the medics feel comfortable sharing maybe why they’re feeling  this stress or why an event occurred that I can assist them with. So usually  that’s where Charlie and I come in,” she said. 

A lot of the work is proactive. 

Giles and her canine co-worker often visit paramedics on the weekend,  chatting about non-work-related topics — such as dogs — for hours. These  meetings help lay the groundwork for future visits when a paramedic may feel  like addressing a certain issue, Giles said. 

So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“(Paramedics) absolutely adore Charlie. She’s become a mascot for PCCP. She  has already been around after some really challenging, upsetting calls. I’ve  seen some really great connections. It’s uplifting for them to see Charlie,”  Giles said. 

“By communicating with each other, we are connecting and we can be completely  transparent about what the issues are at work that we need support with.” 

While Charlie has been meeting with paramedics and PCCP administrative and  management staff, she could start visiting patients — dog lovers who are unable  to keep pets. 

‘Our community paramedic program is actually looking at ways to integrate  Charlie into visits for some individuals who are at home and could use that,”  PCCP Chief Randy Mellow told county councillors Wednesday. 

“I was not necessarily, a few years ago, someone who would have quickly  jumped to a therapy dog, but I’ve completely converted. The evidence is there.  The science is there. We’re already starting to see the benefits of this paying  off.”

For Giles, bringing Charlie on board signals an important shift. 

“Our hope is that we’re showing some changes in support and connection with  each other to make our service a community. While we run into a lot of  challenges here, we’re hopefully working at them together.” 

Brendan  Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His  reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism  Initiative.

By Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 02, 2023 at 16:55

This item reprinted with permission from   The Peterborough Examiner   Peterborough, Ontario
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