Registered paramedic, policy advisor and student mentor receives NAIT Alumni Award of Excellence
Shawn Knight (Emergency Medical Technology – Paramedic ’96) understands the importance of accountability in the health care profession. During the years he spent as a first responder in the air and on the ground, Knight learned to put his patients first: ensuring that people are cared for by the right practitioner, at the right time and place. Even so, there were many barriers to following through on that practice over the years.
Updating the Health Professions Act
Knight, a registered paramedic, has practiced in rural and city settings and has seen nearly every possible patient care scenario in increasingly demanding environments. In the past, the role of the paramedic was to treat the patient on the scene and provide transport to the hospital, but it became clear to Knight that a change was desperately needed to meet evolving patient needs.
As executive director at the Health Human Resources Planning and Strategy Branch of the Government of Alberta, Knight was tasked with leading this change. In 2014, he took over the portfolio to push forward a policy developed to integrate the paramedic profession into the Health Professions Act (HPA). He admits that the work involved was complex and exhaustive, but Knight was determined to listen and balance the needs of both government and health care professionals.
By 2016, the policy was accepted for the legislative agenda, and 8 months later it was successfully included into the HPA. The HPA now recognizes paramedics as essential health providers under the same act as physicians and registered nurses.
Expanded roles for paramedics
By expanding the scope of the paramedic profession, paramedics can play a larger role in diverting patients from emergency rooms. This means working towards fewer bottlenecks by allowing paramedics to treat patients on site at palliative care homes, industrial worksites and patient home care. It also allowed Alberta Health Services to expand the Community Paramedic program, so paramedics can conduct more medical tests in a patient’s home and provide medication until the patient can access a pharmacy.
Knight continues to drive change to improve patient care. “The projects I’m working on today carry a large amount of impacts on Albertans for years to come.”
Supporting the future of paramedics
Knight credits his hands-on education at NAIT for giving him the foundational knowledge he needed to succeed. “My education and training at NAIT gave me the confidence and skills to succeed in many complex and stressful situations.”
Knight also taught at NAIT for a number of years and has returned to campus as a student mentor, program advisor and volunteer guest speaker. “Mentoring NAIT paramedic graduates within their careers has been the most positive and rewarding part of being an alumnus,” says Knight, who has also served on the NAIT Alumni Association Advisory Committee since 2015. “I get to influence and watch these up-and-coming professionals achieve their own success.”
One of the students Knight mentored was Michael Christian, now the chair of the paramedic program. “Shawn has maintained strong ties to the EMS programs. He’s tutored students and comes to labs and testing days,” says Christian, who first met Knight in 2005. “Shawn has a love of EMS as a profession and as an educator. He mentored me in terms of leadership in the education world.”
Alumni Award of Excellence 2017
Knight’s leadership style puts serving and helping people at the forefront. For his significant contributions to the paramedic profession and his support of NAIT, Shawn Knight was presented the NAIT Alumni Award of Excellence in May 2017 – the first time the award has ever been presented.