BCEHS Central Okanagan Unit Chief, Catharina Goossen. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

BC Ambulance unit chief a leader for women in the industry

Catharina Goossen works in Kelowna

In this edition of Women in Business, women were interviewed who are employed in typically male-dominated industries or in a position that was historically filled by a man.

These women share their stories of being underrepresented in their field and leadership roles – in the hope that their perseverance and success become the guiding light for the next generation of women in business, so they continue to break glass ceilings and meet their goals.

Women in Business shows who the movers and the shakers are in Kelowna and that there is always a space to share stories of successful women.

A BC Ambulance unit chief has become a leader for women in the industry.

Twenty-nine years in the field has not come without its challenges. Still, this experience allows BCEHS Central Okanagan Unit Chief Catharina Goossen to assist her crews when problems arise.

Working out of Station 340 on Lawrence Avenue in Kelowna, Goossen is tasked with looking after her crews on the ground, ensures stock is ordered, and also responds to major incidents where her team is involved and may be injured. She also acts as a liaison to other agencies.

She landed in the role almost by accident.

Attending college for her bachelor in arts, she happened to take part in a first aid course. It was there she met several paramedics who were also taking the course. Immediately, she bonded with them. Years later, she still remembers that interaction.

“I found myself falling in love with the job,” she said.

When she first started with BC Ambulance, she started in a small town. At the time, there were few women in the force. Despite this, she was welcomed with open arms.

Since then, more women have joined the force. Now, the ratio of men to women in the workforce isn’t quite 50-50, but Goossen said it’s much closer than it used to be.

That said, Goossen explained a stereotype within the public remains; some doubt a female paramedic’s abilities.

“Oh, they sent two women instead of two men? You’ll never be able to pick up my husband,” said Goossen, recalling a conversation with a member of the public at a call. “We proved her wrong, and she actually stated afterwards — I’ll never doubt it again.”

Sometimes chivalrous individuals will insist on lifting items for Goossen — an offer she kindly refuses. Sometimes, she admitted, it’s tough to respond to these interactions.

“I’ve had some comments over the years during a call or two where the patient or somebody in the room says ‘oh, there’s no way you can lift that,’ and my partner, who’s male, turns around and says ‘she can lift more than I can, so you’re good hands.'”

It’s examples like this, Goossen said, which showcases the constant support she receives from her coworkers.

Although some may still be upset or angry when they see a female paramedic, Goossen said the public’s mentality has far improved from what it was.

“Those stereotypes may always be there, but I don’t they’re as noticeable. I think that people are realizing — and it’ll always come out when people are angry — but I think that it’s not acceptable in the workplace anymore.”

Being a woman in her role has allowed Goossen to support other women in the industry.

“There was a gentleman a long time ago that took advantage of the fact I was a woman and made me feel very uncomfortable. But being in the role that I’m in now, I can recognize those types of people, and hopefully, avoid somebody else being treated the way I was.

“I think me being in the position that I am in gives those females that chance to feel like they are supported.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


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