Even though she has lived on Vancouver Island for close to 30 years, Swift Current born poet Lorna Crozier still writes about the prairie and remains influenced by the landscape of her childhood. The Governor General’s Award for Poetry recipient reflects on the nature of place and how it has shaped her writing.

Drenched in light. Invaded by light, startled into being by light. This is what it means to grow up in southwest Saskatchewan, the country of my birth and my childhood. Though I’ve lived a thousand miles away for over twenty-five years, in the blink of an eye I place myself, notebook and pen in hand, in the centre of a vast plain where no trees or hills or towering buildings hold back that luminous deluge from the sky.

Eudora Welty, the world-renowned fiction writer who grew up in Mississippi and who left her mother’s house only for a short time to return and eventually grow old there, said, “Every story would be a different story if it happened somewhere else.” The same is true of people and poems. If I’d grown up where I live now, on the edge of the ancient rain forests of Vancouver Island, I would be a different person. My writing would be different too.

It wouldn’t be simply a matter of west coast plants invading the space in my poems where prairie vegetation once grew; it wouldn’t be simply a matter of birds native to this region chasing meadowlarks and redwing blackbirds from my lines, or wind sifting the yellow pollen of giant firs instead of dust onto the covers of my books. Something intrinsic would change. Something that comes from the particularities that define a habitation and shape the characters who thrive there, even those like me who moved away but continue to set their poems and stories in their original place.

Lorna_Crozier
Lorna Crozier is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received five honorary doctorates, including one from the University of Regina in 2004. (Photo by Angie Abdou)

What is it about the land of my birth and upbringing that influences the sensibilities of a writer such as me? The plains that surround my hometown of Swift Current confound those who first encounter them. In all directions the grasslands stretch far and away like a desert. Shadows from the clouds swim over the wild grasses and heads of wheat. The rills and shallow coulees shape-shift as daylight declines. With the dry land, the spare rain, come no sounds of rushing water, no stands of trees shouting to the wind, though the wind is always there, a companion of loneliness, a keening that invades the imagination and leaves a solitary traveller speechless with wonder.

A stranger to this land complains there’s nothing to see, nothing to hear. So many of my friends from the mountains or the coast tell me they drive for hours on the Trans-Canada through the Prairies, and they feel they’ve gone nowhere. If you’re sensitive to this landscape, I reply, this nowhere is somewhere uncanny and true. Your ear and eye become subtly, exquisitely tuned.

Writers must, above everything else, develop the ability to listen, not only to other humans but also to the land itself, though its homilies can’t be translated into any known tongue. Outside of the towns and cities in southwest Saskatchewan, when you’re used to the noise of urban life, the silence you encounter seems impregnable. At first it could be mistaken for the muteness that arises out of emptiness. But it’s not that. It’s a quiet that demands attention. Something significant is about to be uttered, and silence has prepared a proper place for it. It is up to you to respond in kind.

The Book of Genesis begins with God’s first words: “Let there be light.” Surely He said that in the middle of the grasslands, perhaps on a small rise smack in the middle of what would become Swift Current to the west and Moose Jaw to the east.

If you are patient and attentive, you’ll hear what the grass says as the wind passes over. A susurration as soft as the brush of an owl’s wing across the snow will vibrate the small bones of your inner ear. Your task will be to name that sound, to sing it into poetry, to find words that will speak it into being on a page.

This is a place that has grown a multitude of writers. Could the silence here be so strong that it demands an equivalent speaking? A man and woman faced with such a muffled eloquence must cry out, “I am here, I am alive, I am dying. Who will hear me?”

Only to the uninitiated does the openness of the grasslands appear empty. To the person who feels at home it is charged with possibilities. Something meaningful exists just beyond the grasp of our hearing, touch, smell, sight. It requires all the tools we have to coax it into language, though language will never have the final say.

“Look up, look up,” you tell anyone who claims this country of your heart, of your imagination, is monotonous. In every season, every hour, the sky, spiralling above you, unrolls its clouds, its cobalts, its paler blues. The sky is an antidote to boredom. It’s easy to lose yourself in its weathers and the beauty of its sheen. There is change in everything, it tells you, including in you.

The essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson claimed that a writer must be “a transparent eyeball.” I can’t help but see the prairie sky itself as that — a gigantic, clear orb that holds everything below. We are small inside it. No matter how important we might feel, we are merely specks in its huge seeing.

That could be a humbling, depressing thing, but it’s a blessing for a poet. When you feel so seen, are you not drawn to look more closely, to gaze more fiercely and fearlessly at what takes shape under the sun? If you pay attention, you’ll glimpse a darkling beetle climbing over a blade of grass. In early morning you’ll see the small fog of a chickadee’s breath suspended above the feeder. You may even decipher a line or two scrawled across the clouds or the shimmer of something that just passed out of sight.

Lorna Crozier
Crozier lives on Vancouver Island with writer Patrick Lane and two cats who love to garden. (Photo by Kamil Bialous)

A South African writer I met this past fall at a poetry festival in Hong Kong tells me of a word that means “the sky just after a swan has flown through.” That scrap of blue looks different from what surrounds it: the swan’s beauty, the energy of its being has left a vestige of its flight. This is the kind of thing a poet is looking for, a brilliant trace of what can’t be seen. It is the poet’s task to make the unseen visible with reticence and grace.

The Book of Genesis begins with God’s first words: “Let there be light.” Surely He said that in the middle of the grasslands, perhaps on a small rise smack in the middle of what would become Swift Current to the west and Moose Jaw to the east. His radiant invention, spoken into existence, rolled out of the darkness of his mouth onto a long, undulating stretch of land. No wonder after 40 years of writing, I return here in the lines of my poems. It was words that created the light. And the light that shone on every worldly thing claimed this place as home.

About the Author

Lorna Crozier is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has been acknowledged for her contributions to Canadian literature, her teaching and her mentoring with five honorary doctorates, including one from the University of Regina in 2004. Crozier’s books have received numerous national awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. In 2012, the Globe and Mail declared The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things one of its Top 100 Books of the Year. Amazon chose Crozier’s memoir, Small Beneath the Sky, as one of the 100 books you should read in your lifetime. A professor emerita at the University of Victoria, she has performed for Queen Elizabeth II. Lorna has read her poetry, which has been translated into several languages, on every continent except Antarctica. Her latest book, What the Soul Doesn’t Want, was nominated for the 2017 Governor General’s Award for Poetry.

WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1247 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2018-05-10 09:39:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-10 15:39:53 [post_content] => Irene Mosquito sits stitching beads carefully onto a pair of leather gloves lined with soft rabbit fur. Her ease with both the stitching and the noisy children surrounding her are telling. Just behind her are various pictures of other crafts that she has shared with people who enter through the doors of the Four Directions Community Health Centre every Saturday. One of the crafts stands out. “It’s called a moss bag,” she says with a warm smile. “They’re used for more than just keeping babies warm.” Mosquito explains how the moss bags are meant to simulate a baby’s life in the womb. “There is even a cord with criss-crossed threads that sits on the inside of the bag,” she says. “Every criss-cross of the thread has a traditional teaching related to it.” Irene Mosquito (right) used to be a SEARCH client, now she works as a support worker at the after-hours clinic. Mosquito sits with volunteer Busi Mabhena. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin) Amidst the hustle and bustle of people, many of them nervous University of Regina students, Mosquito is a calm oasis. Her beautiful black hair is pulled back in a ponytail. Calling her older than most of the others here doesn’t seem quite right. The term grandma seems much more appropriate because ever since she entered the room, the younger children gravitate towards her. She also has that unmistakable presence that makes certain people seem more like an elder than just elderly. Mosquito is the support worker for SEARCH (Student Energy in Action for Regina Community Health). Started in 2009, SEARCH was the brainchild of a group of post-secondary students who wanted to get involved in a community health initiative in Regina’s inner city. Their partnership with the University of Regina and the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region led them to Four Directions Community Health Centre, a clinic that had been offering primary health  care in the North Central neighbourhood for more than 20 years. Using student and professional volunteers, SEARCH builds upon the great work that Four Directions is doing by extending the hours of service into the weekend. Professionals at the facility include doctors, social workers, counsellors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physical therapists and dieticians. Beyond offering these essential services to clients, the professionals provide mentorship to the student volunteers. This community of learning between professional mentors, student volunteers and clients is one of SEARCH’s greatest assets.
Started in 2009, SEARCH was the brainchild of a group of post-secondary students who wanted to get involved in a community health initiative in Regina’s inner city.
Mosquito first got involved with SEARCH because she needed its services as a client. “It did a lot for me,” says Mosquito, who lives in North Central but is originally from Whitefish, Saskatchewan. “For example, for physiotherapy, I didn’t have to go far, because sometimes I didn’t have a vehicle.” A convenient location was only one of many benefits that SEARCH offered. “When I needed to see the doctor or the physiotherapist, I knew that [SEARCH] was there for me and that I didn’t have to worry about waiting, waiting, waiting.” The convenience and the friendliness of the people at SEARCH compelled Mosquito to work there herself. Recognizing the importance of Indigenous culture, SEARCH ensures it has staff who can provide leadership and guidance in traditional ways. “I let [the clients] know that it’s okay to be Indian, to use their language, because a lot of people have lost their culture in this community.” Started in 2009, SEARCH was the brainchild of a group of post-secondary students who wanted to get involved in a community health initiative in Regina’s inner city. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin) Mosquito says that the ability to perform cultural activities such as beadwork and moss bags was lost as a result of residential schools. “The grandparents were the ones that were supposed to pass on the values and teach the kids,” she says. “Now that piece is missing.” She sees her role at SEARCH as a way to bridge that gap. “We’re trying to get all of that back, slowly … Even here.” As with the other mentors, Mosquito sees her job as providing services to both the clients and the student volunteers. “If you are wanting to teach or work in the North Central community, you need to know the cultural aspects of it and I’m always here to help answer those types of questions, not just for the clients that come in, but also for the students,” she says. “So teaching people all of these protocols – how to dress, what to bring – it’s all an important part of being here.” Kelly Husack BKin'15 is SEARCH’s executive director. She also leads the Blue Dot Movement, an organization that advocates for a healthier environment. Husack first heard about SEARCH in Christian Thomson’s Indigenous Studies 100 class at the First Nations University of Canada. She still remembers her first day at SEARCH. Following the SEARCH orientation session, she was nervously standing against the wall when one of the social workers approached her and said, “Jump in there and go have a conversation.” This invitation would alter the direction of Husack’s life and fundamentally change her perspective on community health. After three years volunteering, and having entered her second year as executive director, Husack sees health as so much more than just offering treatment. She says that the community aspect SEARCH offers is its greatest remedy. “We spend a lot of time with our clients,” she says. “Often, needs that are presented on the medical side tend to be a lot more complex than just, ‘I have a sore throat, etc.’ There tends to be a lot more compounding factors, so we try to allow more time for that.” The Four Directions Community Health Centre in the North Central neighbourhood is home to SEARCH. The clinic has been offering primary health care in the community for more than 20 years. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin) Husack says that SEARCH helps lighten the load on the Regina health care system. “By coming here, people aren’t utilizing emergency services, which reduces cost and strain on the emergency rooms at the main hospitals.” SEARCH also offers unique educational benefits to its student volunteers. “Students come in with their own backgrounds and their own sets of knowledge that they’ve gained through their university experience thus far,” says Husack. “Then they get to meet and work with people in the community.” After years of working in interior design, Jessica Dunster BSNU'17 decided that it was time for a change. “I dealt with people that had lots of money to spend,” says Dunster. “The materialism and the greed started to get to me.” That led Dunster to seek a career where she felt she could serve others. She quickly enrolled in a nursing program. It wasn’t long into her program that Amanda Kukartz, SEARCH’s previous director, came to her school on a student volunteer recruitment trip. Dunster had a choice of ten different placements and she chose SEARCH. “I just felt that there was a lot of stigma to this area,” says Dunster, “and as someone who was going into a health profession, I think that it was very important for me to understand the background that people from the inner city were coming from.” Jessica Dunster left a career in interior design for nursing in order to serve others. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin) Now a registered nurse at the General Hospital, Dunster says that her learning at SEARCH is something that you can’t get in a classroom. “You can go and take an Indigenous health class and learn about the residential school system and everything that happened, but here you have the opportunity to sit down with someone and learn about their particular experience: what it has done to their family, what’s going on now and the issues that that has caused.”
“It was the individuals and families that I connected with that made it more personal for me,” she says. “It kept me wanting to come back.”
After completing her one-month course requirement, Dunster decided to continue volunteering. She eventually joined the student-led SEARCH Board of Directors and is now a board co-chair. “It was the individuals and families that I connected with that made it more personal for me,” she says. “It kept me wanting to come back.” Dunster says that her time at SEARCH has opened her eyes to the judgement that marginalized people feel from our health care system, and, in turn, how she can become a better advocate. “Being at SEARCH has given me much more of a catalogue of contacts for help and supports that [marginalized] people can use.” Connecting with other students and professional mentors was also “huge” for her. She not only got to observe and perform pre-interviews with clients, but also to have key conversations with mentors about the clients’ diagnoses. Above all, Dunster says that SEARCH has helped her dig deeper and look beyond the clinical aspect of what’s happening to people. And this, she says, has made her a better nurse. “It’s made me more aware of getting to know what’s going on in a person’s life, so you can have more of an impact,” she says. “It’s having a more holistic approach. For some Indigenous people, this may mean getting them access to an Elder.” Dunster believes that without SEARCH, she would not have had the same depth of sensitivity to people—that she wouldn’t be doing the same “digging” that she does now. A black string with a large plastic white bat is wrapped snugly around the neck of Matthew Pechey BScHons'15, a second-year medical student and SEARCH volunteer. “I’m a fan of Batman,” says Pechey. “I like to go to the Fan Expo in Regina—it’s a good conversation starter.” Like Bruce Wayne, Pechey comes from a place of privilege. “I’m in a pretty advantaged situation as a Caucasian male coming from a middle-income family,” says Pechey. “Acknowledging that lack of fairness and knowing that there’s a responsibility to work towards something better is important, even if it’s going to be slow and difficult.” Matthew Pechey, a second-year medical student and SEARCH volunteer. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin) Pechey speaks of the humility that he has learned as a SEARCH volunteer. “I am learning too. I might be doing one thing that I think is helpful, but then find out that it is completely inappropriate, that you need to be informed on what the specific needs are in the community rather than imposing your own prejudice.” Pechey first volunteered with SEARCH during his undergraduate degree in psychology. Seeing how the professional counselling mentors worked with clients and their family members was eye-opening. “[The mentors] have worked within the community and the insights they bring are very valuable,” he says. “They know the events and the health care issues within this neighbourhood.” If Irene Mosquito is the wise SEARCH sage, then Sam Berg is the Jedi master. A veteran counsellor of more than 20 years, Berg’s warm disposition is matched by his handsomely lined face and silver hair. “As mentors, we provide the services that we are professionally equipped to do and then we are observed,” he says. “We then debrief after each session.” Berg says it’s fascinating to watch the professional and educational progression of the students during their time at SEARCH. “It gives them the opportunity to get out of the ivory tower and get involved with people on the ground,” he says. “It’s been a really wonderful experience working with them and with the clients that come here as well.” Berg says that the students that come through SEARCH’s doors give him hope for the future. “If there’s a problem with millennials today, these aren’t typical,” he says with a laugh. “These are the type of people that get up in the morning, work hard and have dreams and ambitions.” Sam Berg a veteran counsellor and SEARCH volunteer. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin) One of those millennials is Aimee Kowallski, a second-year psychology student at the University of Regina and one of the ten people experiencing their first day at SEARCH. Like Kelly Husack, Kowallski first heard about SEARCH in Christian Thomson’s Indigenous Studies 100 class. Originally from Moose Jaw, Kowallski says that the things she’s been learning in her Indigenous studies class are “blowing her mind” and that she sees SEARCH as a great way to learn and help Regina become a better place. Peter Boyko is a larger-than-life character. He is one of those rare people that can be loud and endearing at the same time. As soon as he rolled through the SEARCH doors, waves of smiles came over people’s faces.

“I’m really happy this place is here,” says Boyko.

Boyko has been coming to SEARCH for the past four years. While he’s definitely used the medical and counselling services, Boyko makes it very evident that the staff and students here are his friends and that the social aspect of SEARCH is extremely important to him. He often refers to different staff members, such as Kay Yee (a dietician) and others as if they were his regular chums on coffee row at a small-town diner. “Chats with these people ranged from the efficacy of hydroelectricity, to the KKK, and then the limited uses of solar power,” says Boyko. A resident of Argyle Park, Boyko says he first noticed the Four Directions Centre when passing by on the bus. Now he doesn’t know what he’d do without it. “I had an ear infection once, a cold another time. I saw the doctor a few times. I saw a counsellor when the social worker wasn't here,” he says. “It’s truly important that these [extended Saturday] hours are available.” Boyko brings up the sign that hangs above the kitchen in the main room. It says, ‘Love is the best ingredient.’ “It’s not just a statement, but something that is lived out by the staff, and that includes those that come and volunteer on Saturdays,” he says. “I’m really happy this place is here.” [post_title] => Regina’s SEARCH has the best ingredient [post_excerpt] => Students are getting valuable health care mentoring by volunteering at a primary health care clinic. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => reginas-search-has-the-best-ingredient [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-10-29 13:33:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-29 19:33:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.degreesmagazine.ca/?p=1247 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2117 [post_author] => 8 [post_date] => 2018-11-02 08:52:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-02 14:52:36 [post_content] =>

Sheree Ortman BPAS’95, CA’97, MAdmin’15 had forgotten about her application to join the Regina Police Service (RPS) when the call came asking her if she was still interested. Layne Jackson had wanted to be a firefighter since he was a young teenager. They both knew early on that they wanted to be in jobs where they could serve others; the kind of jobs where each day brought new and different challenges.

Both attended the University of Regina to advance their education and move forward in their chosen professions. Both relied on the flexibility of part-time studies to help them balance their work and family responsibilities with their education. And both achieved their goals: Ortman served with the RPS for 25 years before retiring in early September, while Jackson has served as chief of Regina Fire and Protective Services for the past year and a half, following eight years as deputy chief.

“If you have the motivation to improve yourself and take on new work experiences,” Ortman explains, “you don’t want to be stalled by factors outside your control.”

Today, people in their lines of work are referred to as “first responders,” a catch-all phrase referring to individuals with specialized training who are among the first to arrive and provide assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as an accident, an explosion or fire, a natural disaster or a mass shooting. Informally, they are the brave folks who are trained to rush toward trouble while the rest of us run the other way.

Ortman, who admits to being “something of an adrenaline junkie,” experienced several twists and turns along her path to becoming a police officer. However, throughout that journey wound the common thread that her work would involve helping people, and it would offer a variety of experiences. After finishing high school in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Ortman trained to be an emergency medical technician at SIAST (now Saskatchewan Polytechnic). But after about five years, she recognized that if she wanted to better her pay and benefits and have more opportunities for education, she needed to change careers.

“If you have the motivation to improve yourself and take on new work experiences,” Ortman explains, “you don’t want to be stalled by factors outside your control.” She applied to the Regina Police Service because policing had some of the same characteristics as being an EMT; every day was different. But when she applied to the RPS – the only police service she ever applied to – there was a hiring freeze.

“My family has always been athletic, so I applied to take a physical activity studies degree at the University of Regina,” says Ortman. “I was in my second-last semester when the police service called. At first, I wondered if something was wrong. When they asked if I was still interested in the job, I was surprised but I wasn’t too sure. I told myself, ‘Don’t shut the door too quick. There are about 20 steps to get the job, and I may not make it, or they may say I’m out at any point.’ ”

Those steps included numerous physical, medical and psychological tests – which she passed – before beginning her training at the Saskatchewan Police College at the University of Regina campus. Ortman also continued her studies and completed her degree.

A southern Saskatchewan native, Layne Jackson BHRD’09 (Hons) originally worked for a year after high school and then pursued his interest in firefighting. He attended Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota from 1993 to 1995, where he received an associate degree in Fire Technology and Administration. He then returned to Saskatchewan, working for more than 10 years in the Office of the Fire Commissioner, which is tasked with investigating and responding to large-scale emergencies and disasters. He began taking night classes toward a Bachelor of Human Resource Development at the University in 1998 and graduated in the spring of 2009.

“It was difficult juggling classes, family and work, but the experience turned out positive,” Jackson says. “I met so many professionals who were upgrading and diversifying their education. There were also elective classes that gave me a good cross-section of subject matter, and also exposed me to young, eager students fresh out of high school and to new Canadians who introduced me to aspects of different cultures.”

Equally important, Jackson’s education was directly applicable to his responsibility for heading an organization of 325 people, what he describes as “… the art and science of leading and developing people.” Several classes in finance and economics also help him in his role as chief, he adds.

Layne Jackson, chief of Regina Fire and Protective Services, standing in front of fire truck Layne Jackson, chief of Regina Fire and Protective Services. (Photo by Rae Graham)

“I’m glad I waited to do my master’s because the life experiences I’d had gave me more insights that I could apply in my studies and at work.”

When Ortman joined the RPS, four per cent of the service’s sworn officers were women. The 13 female officers were a novelty, she says, and while the RPS has always been accepting and welcoming, she sometimes experienced what she calls “micro-inequities,” such as having a colleague speak to her with his back turned or blocked her from the rest of a group. “You were always trying to prove yourself, and you didn’t want to mess up and prove what you felt your fellow officers and members of the public were already thinking.” Ortman emphasizes that the RPS has made a lot of progress on diversity, with about 23 per cent of sworn officers being female.

Ortman recognized that if she was going to continue taking on more responsible roles in the RPS, where the service’s strategies and budgets are planned and executed, she needed more than her undergraduate degree. “I don’t like to plateau; when I get to that point, I’m itching to grow. I also recognized that it would benefit me and those I worked with.”

Sheree Ortman just before her September 2018 retirement. Ortman served the Regina Police Service for 25 years.

(Photo by Rae Graham)

Ortman began studying for a master’s degree in administration at the Levene Graduate School of Business in 2012, with a focus on courses in leadership. “Leadership was key to what I was going to do for the rest of my career,” she explains. “I’m glad I waited to do my master’s because the life experiences I’d had gave me more insights that I could apply in my studies and at work.” Ortman received her master’s degree in 2015.

Jackson’s and Ortman’s experiences and interests also mesh with research underway at the University of Regina, on the effects of occupational stress injuries on first responders. In the past few decades, public awareness of the psychological, emotional and physical effects that attending to emergency situations have on first responders has increased. It’s often referenced under the blanket terms post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or post-traumatic stress injury.

“Firefighters are very safety conscious, but I’m also mindful of the mental stresses they encounter over a career. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the work of the national institute, and how it might help mitigate the risk of occupational stress injuries in what is a very dangerous job.”

In March 2018, the University of Regina’s Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) was assigned to lead a Canada-wide consortium of university researchers, partner organizations and stakeholders in developing tools to recognize mental injuries suffered by first responders and other public safety personnel. The two-pronged initiative focused on prevention measures and treatments that reduce the impact of occupational stress injuries.

Funding for the project includes $20 million to support a five-year project in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to investigate the incidence of post-traumatic stress injuries, and $10 million over five years for work with Public Safety Canada to develop an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy pilot project to increase access to care and treatment for first responders and other public safety personnel across Canada, paticularly those in rural and remote areas.

Layne Jackson confers with administration associate Samatha Cabylis at Fire Headquarters in Regina

(Photo by Rae Graham)

Jackson is excited about the projects and welcomes having them inform the well-being of first responders. “We send our firefighters to do some of the most traumatic work on a daily basis, all year,” he says. “After a traumatic event, the people involved debrief with a team of their peers – that is a key element – in what we call “critical incident stress management.” Firefighters are very safety conscious, but I’m also mindful of the mental stresses they encounter over a career. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the work of the national institute, and how it might help mitigate the risk of occupational stress injuries in what is a very dangerous job.”

Ortman adds that the occupational stress and trauma experienced by first responders and public safety personnel are very real and just beginning to be recognized. Police officers are exposed to some horrific situations, she notes, and some are more resilient than others.

The City of Regina’s Employee and Family Assistance Program is available for officers, but there are factors that complicate the process, she explains. “We take pride in our identities of being a front-line police officer. If you are removed from your duties, sometimes parts of that identity are removed. There are also issues of confidentiality; you can’t talk about a lot of what goes on in doing your job.”

Ortman credits her education with helping her develop safeguards against the hazards that come with the job. These include being physically fit, having an extremely good support system, and living a balanced lifestyle with interests and activities other than work. “Otherwise, if your life is all about work, you have nothing to turn to after experiencing a traumatic situation.”

Ortman, who served as a critical incident commander, says there have been times when she was affected by what she saw and experienced, though she was fortunate not to experience long-term difficulties. She, too, welcomes the CIPSRT initiative and anticipates that the results of the research will be invaluable. “It is exciting and long overdue,” she states.

As for her own future, Ortman hopes to apply her years of policing experience to create value for other organizations.

“It’s part of the department’s focus on continuing to strengthen the role and the profile of our department in the community,” says Jackson.

Jackson, meanwhile, is faced with the challenge of ensuring his department is keeping pace with Regina’s growth, both in population numbers and geographic area. That includes maintaining acceptable response times for residential, industrial and commercial emergency calls, and providing specialty teams to deal with hazardous materials incidents and water rescues.

Noting that half of “unintentional residential fires” originate from cooking, the fire department partnered with the University’s Community Research Unit to gather information about such fires and to recommend actions to reduce those numbers. The study was completed in 2017 and has drawn interest from the national and international associations of fire chiefs. The fire department’s public education officers are now implementing some of the study’s findings in their programming.

“It’s part of the department’s focus on continuing to strengthen the role and the profile of our department in the community,” says Jackson.

[post_title] => Answering the call [post_excerpt] => Two University of Regina graduates followed their passions and found careers in service to others. One of the first responders recently retired from the Regina Police Service. The other is the head of the Regina Fire and Protective Services. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => answering-the-call [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-16 11:41:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-16 17:41:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.degreesmagazine.ca/?p=2117 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )