Heart of our City – Jessica Friesen

Heart of our City – Jessica Friesen

Prince Rupert paramedic has her finger on the pulse of the city

With her finger on the pulse of many in the city, she thrives on change and adrenalin. That’s probably what makes Jessica Friesen love her job as one of two Prince Rupert community paramedics.

Moving to Prince Rupert just a little more than two years ago, it would have been Jessica’s almost 15th move. Raised in B.C.’s north, she said she’s moved at least thirteen times while growing up and going to school in Prince George. After moving to P.R. she has moved three more times.

Jessica said change is what keeps her moving and that’s why she enjoys her work so much. With being a community paramedic each case is different, each patient is different, and so is each day, she said.

She started her paramedic career in Vanderhoof and with B.C. as the only province with a provincial paramedic program, she was able to move easily to Prince Rupert. She chose the city because of the ability for her job to be constantly developing. With the location close to many island communities, it meant boat travel, air travel, road travel constantly keeping her position moving into different areas, and working with other emergency services, she said.

“Paramedics are definitely vital to the community … especially at the beginning of last year,” she said referring to the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our role was changing weekly, with what we could and could not do, restrictions and providing the highest level of patient care within our ever-changing scope of practice. That definitely added an element of challenge.”

Part of the community paramedicine’s role is to enter into patients’ homes to stabilize their conditions so an emergency room visit or hospital stay is not a necessity. Community paramedics offer education to their patients and caregivers.

Jessica loves her own learning curve and bends to its will to help her patients in any way she can, even with something that may seem as simple as communication.

“You are wanting to give the best patient care but with all of the PPE (personal protection equipment), it adds a level of difficulty. It can be a challenge how to communicate well with patients and not come across as abrupt or rude yelling at them through PPE,” she said.

Another challenge of her job is maintaining and sanitizing the ambulance to keep a clean work environment while going from call to call efficiently, she said.

“There are a lot of challenges paramedics are faced with, especially during the pandemic.”

At one time in her life, Jessica thought of becoming a cook, but that thought was short, with becoming an emergency responder igniting a flaming passion in her. She completed her training through the Justice Institue down in Kelowna. There were pre-requisite studies and exams in anatomy and physiology. She said days in class were long and after class hours were spent practicing.

“If you don’t pass that exam, you don’t go to school,” she said of the entrance expectations to become a paramedic.

“I joined the emergency services because that was where I wanted to go and because I love the variety. I love the challenge and the adrenaline rush that kind of came with the job,” she said.

“I kind of filtered down my interest into BC Ambulance because of the intellectual challenge as well. It not only covers what you’re dealing with which is sometimes trauma, which is like medical, less science-based and more faced paced [decision making],” she said.

“But then there is the medical aspect where you are thrown all this information and it’s a challenge gathering facts because [you need to be] gathering all that information, processing it in relevancy and then coming up with a potential diagnosis for those patients and bringing that to the hospital,”.

While Jessica is not an adrenaline junkie, she does like a faster pace in life which is evident by her out-of-work activities. She goes to the gym regularly to stay fit and in the past few years she has taken up cycling.

Three years ago she completed her first Cops for Cancer ride and she is currently training for this year’s ride which will start in Prince George from Sept. 17 to 23.

“This year we’re actually riding from Prince George to Prince Rupert which is kind of cool because that’s my hometown to where I’m at now,” she said. “That’s going to be I think, almost a 900-kilometre ride in seven days.”

She said most riders cycle between 70 to 170 km each day of the trek. To prepare for the ride across the northern part of the province she cycles each week increasing the distance each time.

“The first week of training, I capped my ride to 40 km on the bike. The following was 50 km. And so every week you’re extending each ride, but then you still do more so by being it’s like I’m doing about 100 to 150 kilometres a week, if not more.

She said her ‘go-to’ ride on an average day is to Rainbow Summit and back, which is about 60 km and takes about two hours. Her bike has a mounted speedometer and she mentioned the word ‘adrenalin’ again when explaining that she likes to push her to go faster and harder.

“It’s continually challenging myself to go faster and keep at a certain pace. It’s a great tool to push yourself,” she said.

“Even with that, I take that to BC Ambulance every day as it’s all learning opportunity. Everybody is different. Every single body is different. Everyone presents signs and symptoms differently. Everything is a learning opportunity to grow.”

She grew up with her sister by her side, and being a paramedic was almost foreshadowed for her one Christmas when she was a child.

“It’s actually kind of funny because one Christmas our aunt gave me and my sister both toys. She gave one of us an ambulance and the other one a firetruck.”

To this day, Jessica said the sisters still friendly bicker as to who was given which toy.

“My aunt told me the ambulance was given to me,” Jessica said, sealing the finality of the toy and the predictive influence on her life today.