Alex Buchanan has been a paramedic for 14 years and a SEIU steward for 5 years. He is an Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP) currently working for Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville, Ont.
Alex was interested in a career in healthcare because he was very involved in caring for his four younger siblings. He was “co-opted” into a parenting type role early in life.
“I always felt like I was an organizer and I enjoyed looking after kids,” says Alex. “Caring always came naturally to me.”
He was also partly indoctrinated into healthcare, he jokes, because his grandfather often told him he was going to become a doctor. Though he is not a doctor, he still landed in healthcare. While he says he fell into paramedicine, it turned out to be a great fit for him.
“I like having the ability to be autonomous,” says Alex. “I am a Type A Personality, admittedly, and so I like having some form of control over the quality of care at a scene and/or given to a patient. I think the sentiment: ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself ‘is one many paramedics would echo. I know for sure that when the patients are in my care, they are getting the best care I can give them.”
“I think this goes back to me being an older brother again,” he says. “I had to manage unfamiliar or stressful circumstances and this lends itself well to managing high stress situations.”
Alex says that two common traits of many paramedics are that they prefer a level of autonomy and that they are comfortable with high stress situations. Though, he notes that the majority of calls they receive are not overly stressful.
Alex also likes that paramedicine is a very dynamic field. “The job is never boring. Everything is always changing. You have new patients and the situations are always slightly different.”
With his additional training as an ACP, it means he works with people in all disciplines of healthcare — including nurses, nurse practitioners, personal support workers, physicians, specialists, emergency department staff, and many others. He also coordinates with police services, fire services, a regional Base Hospital and the Ministry of Health. As an ACP, he is able to perform additional tasks in the field, such as; intubation, chest needles, surgical airways, pacing and cardioversion.
Furthermore, he really enjoys that his job allows him to meet people daily from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. “Everyone gets sick, it’s the universal equalizer.”
Involvement with SEIU Healthcare
One of Alex’s colleagues, who was the SEIU steward at the time and was leaving the role, suggested to him that his argumentative nature might make him a good fit for being a steward. He became an SEIU Healthcare steward and was mentored by that colleague.
“I try to be the best steward in the way that I interpret a steward should be,” he says, noting that it can be a challenging role. It is one that has led him to a lot of personal growth.
His approach to stewarding is to be patient and to give people the benefit of the doubt. “Grievances say that someone is guilty of something. So, I aim to have start with a conversation before submitting a grievance. This has been my way, and while it doesn’t always work, it is often a better way to build trust.”
“My advice to all stewards: The faster you lose your patience, the sooner the employer will stop listening to you,” says Alex. “Listening is difficult and taking the high road is difficult. Nobody has yet to master those two skills. But, those are tenets of stewards.”
Everyone should be feel like they won a little bit, says Alex, so they can all perform well in their jobs. That will lead to optimal care for patients. “At the end of the day, it is all about the patients.”