Bill Bailey relaxes at home after learning he will receive an award for instructor excellence from an international organization. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

B.C. paramedic honoured for instructor excellence

Chilliwack’s Bill Bailey has dedicated his life to improving trauma care for patients and providers

Bill Bailey is proud of his work, and gives it everything he has.

In brief, Bailey’s a paramedic, a fitness instructor, a licensing examiner, and an International Trauma Life Support (ITLS) instructor and co-ordinator. And that’s just the short list.

So to be honoured with an award for his commitment to teaching others, is, in his words, “a really big deal.”

Bailey, 63, has been awarded the 2017 ITLS Instructor of the Year, specifically for excellence in teaching and innovation in the ITLS Program. “I am very honoured I’ve gotten this award,” he says, relaxing on a day off at his Promontory home. But it’s not the award he really wants to talk about. It’s the success of the program he’s helped deliver throughout B.C., the country and the world that he’s really passionate about.

ITLS is a global not-for-profit organization dedicated to preventing death and disability from trauma through education and emergency trauma care. It’s a “pre-hospital” trauma program with more than 90 chapters and training centres in over 35 countries around the world. And Bailey has been instrumental in helping grow the program, through creating courses that cater to the many types of responders they teach.

“This is my forte,” he says. “It’s a standardized Canadian course but I have the ability to modify the group for the client.”

Bailey travels around the world to teach instructors how to deliver the programs, to places like Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi. He travels around the province, too, instructing teams like heart transplant nurses with critical care transport, military medics, Corrections staff, nursing staff, outpost nurses in northern B.C. and the Yukon, other B.C. paramedics, fire departments, and emergency department physicians.

When it comes to teaching the transplant team, for example, he studies their protocol to make sure his course is relatable, and usable.

“That’s where the innovation comes in,” he says. “This is about moving beyond instructing paramedics and fire departments. My teaching style fits the clientele.”

He has taught most of the B.C. paramedics, as an instructor through the Justice Institute of B.C. for the past 25 years or so. And he’s happy to be based out of Chilliwack, now as a part-time paramedic. Over the years, he has seen students grow and become team leaders themselves.

“Chilliwack has some of the best instructors,” he says. “And I think I’ve been a good, positive influence.”

He knows his personal delivery can be very straightforward. But it has to be. Delivering trauma care is a fast-paced situation where confidence is key, and he tries to instill the knowledge and quick-decision making into his students.

Hesitations could mean the difference between life and death, in the most extreme situations.

“You could say I’m honest to a fault,” he says. “I say let’s get to the chase. If you have to get in and plug a hole in a chest with your finger, you plug a hole in that chest with your finger.”

He first got into medicine as a nurse, where he worked alongside his wife, Lorraine at Chilliwack General Hospital. He quickly realized he wasn’t happy with that role, and sought out a change. With his wife’s support, he changed careers and has been teaching since 1991.

Her support, and the support of their children all these years, has allowed Bailey to pursue this globe-hopping, highly demanding line of work. In fact, he says, his only regret is that he’s had to miss important moments with them over the years.

And the highlight of his days? When he arrives at a call, and it’s a friend or a neighbour that he can take care of. To see a patient’s face relax, knowing they will be cared for like family, makes it worth the while.

There is always a demand for more paramedics, and Bailey is sure he’ll be there to train many more. He has this advice:

“It’s not all lights and sirens. You are working with sick people in their difficult times. It’s not exciting. It can be sad, and depressing, but happy and hard work. It’s not pleasant but it is rewarding.”

The 2017 ITLS Conference is coming up on Nov. 3-5, in Quebec City.

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