Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2023):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 8, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why Ornge was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2023):
- With over 650 employees spread across numerous locations, Ornge manages multiple modes of communication to help keep employees connected, including town halls (with guest speakers, organization updates and questions), a revamped intranet, podcasts and educational events
- Ornge supports employees who are new mothers with maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers, to 93 per cent of salary for up to 30 weeks, and also offers parental top-up for fathers and adoptive parents, to 93 per cent of salary for up to 15 weeks
- Ornge helps employees plan for the future with retirement planning assistance services and helps employees save for the future through a defined benefit pension plan
Ornge flies high in developing employee careers
A paramedic working in land ambulances most of her career, Vanessa Widdup took a position with Ornge and ended up flying all over northern Ontario.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” says Widdup. “On each call we might fly 45 minutes to an hour to a nursing station in a remote Indigenous community.”
Geography is a major determinant of health for Ontarians; patients in northern and rural Ontario face inequitable access to care and may suffer adverse outcomes as a result. The air ambulance and critical care transport provider for Ontario, Ornge, uses planes and helicopters, as well as critical care land ambulances, to care for patients in hard to reach areas. Though its head office is in Mississauga, many Ornge employees work throughout the province.
From her base in Sioux Lookout, Widdup’s close-knit team provided advanced care paramedic services to Indigenous communities, as well as Thunder Bay and Kenora. Calls for help with childbirth were common. “Every day is different, from trauma to paediatrics,” says Widdup.
During COVID-19, Widdup took part in Operation Remote Immunity. Ornge staff coordinated and carried out the distribution and administration of vaccines to northern, remote First Nations communities.
“We’d go to the homes of people who couldn’t get out and they were feeling so fortunate and happy we were there,” Widdup says.
And remote work means that Ornge paramedics can take care of patients far from hospitals, doctors and nurses.
“We are among the organizations with the highest scopes of practice in North America, from newborns to geriatrics and all conditions,” says Michael Longeway, director of clinical affairs. “This organization believes in professional development.”
Longeway himself started with Ornge as a primary care paramedic, the entry level. He had wanted to be a paramedic since he was a child. He worked his way through advanced care, advanced care flight and finally the critical care paramedic program. “I’m still certified,” he says. “I do the odd shift. I still love the work.”
In terms of annual skills maintenance and improvement, the average number of hours of education activities for paramedics in Ontario is 16 to 24. Ornge breaks education into two sections so that operational and safety training doesn’t eat into the clinical training time, which is about 96 hours a year.
Ornge paramedics receive two full days of clinical training annually where doctors observe and offer feedback. In addition, every base in Ontario has full simulator training equipment so that staff can learn every month. The clinical practice leads do paramedic work 50 per cent of their time, while the other 50 per cent is spent leading development.
All managers and directors go through an interdisciplinary leadership development program. This gives managers from aviation, clinical, operations, finance, legal and more an opportunity to hear about each other’s triumphs and successes, and promotes internal collaboration.
At Ornge, there is also concern for mental wellness, including peer-to-peer support and operational pauses after a difficult call.
“Ornge is filled with highly motivated people who come every day to take care of some of the sickest patients in Ontario,” says Longeway.
“To a paramedic, Ornge stands out because the critical care program you complete is the highest ranking you can achieve,” says Widdup. “One of my college instructors worked with Ornge. I wished I could be like him. Seven years later, I am.”