Training that makes a difference: UBC medical student puts her JIBC paramedic training to work in Africa


This past summer, Tika Okuda spent five weeks in an African country helping to support a local organization providing community health care and education for local health care workers.

A JIBC Primary Care Paramedic (PCP) graduate who is now a second year medical student at UBC, Tika was part of a team that had the opportunity to explore ways to improve hand hygiene in the community, teach community health care workers, and shadow medical professionals in two local hospitals.

She recently shared a story illustrating the value of her paramedic training when she had to help a nurse during the birth of a newborn in a local hospital.

“Since our return, I have been considering the benefits of my paramedic training, and I wanted to acknowledge the amazing instructors that helped build my practical first aid skills and my personal confidence.

“On my first day shadowing at the hospital, another student and I were observing in the labour and delivery ward. I was excited to watch my first new life enter the world. As a medical student, this is one thing that seems to define your role as a medical professional.

“Around lunch time, a woman began active labour, and I was able to watch the baby crown. But there were no signs of life: no crying, no grimacing, nothing. The nurse worked fast. The baby was put onto the mom’s stomach, his cord was cut, and then he was moved to where a blanket and bag value mask (BVM) was set waiting. The talented nurse started assisting the baby with ventilation. I was watching in disbelief as my first observed birth was not as I had imagined it would be.

“All of a sudden, the nurse’s attention was called back to the laboring mother, and the neonate was left alone. I took over ventilating, trying to estimate what the proper volume would be on the inaccurate BVM. His chest rose, and I took a breath as well. The neonate was not in a good position for the airway, so I placed a blanket under his back.

“My head was racing while my hands ventilated the neonate. The small adjustments I instinctively made were only possible due to the repetitive drills of my PCP instructors and one instructor’s love for pediatric emergency response calls.

“I admit there were many things I would do differently if I did this again. However, when the nurse came back (after what seemed like an eternity), she happily watched and instructed me on my technique while she stimulated the struggling newborn. In 15 minutes, this baby had gone from ash grey to a healthy perfused colour. And the best sign was his nostrils flared occasionally, and the frequency was increasing. After 45 minutes, assisted ventilation was stopped and the newborn was grimacing and even gripped my hand. He got a glucose injection from the nurse and was also administered antibiotics. A.J. was born, the first child in his family, and was nursing the next day.

“There were moments in this situation where I felt out of my league. However, with the training from the skilled instructors at JIBC’s New Westminster Campus, I was able to assess the situation and perform adequately.

“Thanks for building my confidence to handle emergency situations! I am so grateful to have had JIBC instructors as mentors.”

For more information about JIBC’s Primary Care Paramedic (PCP) Program, the only one in B.C. that’s accredited by the Canadian Medical Association, visit the JIBC PCP webpage.

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