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Electives with STARS

Each academic year, STARS accepts residents for a Transport Medicine elective. These four week blocks are designed to give a student exposure to the helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) world as practiced at STARS and to provide an opportunity to work with both fixed-wing and ground-based EMS crews. In addition, residents learn the basics of transport logistics and crisis resource management in the pre-hospital critical care environment. STARS has bases in six locations: Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Saskatoon, Regina, and Winnipeg. Each base offers a unique experience and insight into the practice of HEMS in Canada.

Unfortunately, at this time STARS does not accept out-of-country residents or fellows for electives.

Who can come for an elective?

Each base has different criteria for elective residents based on their call volume and availability of a third seat on the aircraft. In addition to residents, STARS has multiple other groups of learners who work in the HEMS environment.

STARS' Calgary base accepts fifth year FRCPC Emergency Medicine and Anesthesia residents as well as Critical Care Medicine Fellows from accredited Canadian residency/fellowship programs. Depending on the timing, STARS' Calgary base may accept late fourth year residents undertaking either a transport medicine fellowship or an EMS fellowship.

STARS' Edmonton base accepts residents in the latter half and beyond of PGY 4 for electives. Priority is given to emergency medicine and acute care residents. A maximum of two residents per academic block are accepted. There are no blackout dates for specific resident groups. A senior transport resident rotation is for residents who have previously completed the STARS transport resident elective. This elective involves primary call triage in consultation with the attending transport physician to learn about more advanced transport decision making.

STARS' Grande Prairie base accepts Family Medicine residents from the Grande Prairie residency program for longitudinal electives.

STARS' Regina base accepts residents in Saskatchewan emergency medicine programs for a core curriculum rotation. Other residents are welcome to apply for ride-along observation opportunities.

STARS' Saskatoon base accepts Saskatchewan-based PGY 4 and PGY 5 FRCPC Emergency Medicine residents. Other residents are welcome to apply for ride-along observation opportunities.

STARS' Winnipeg base accepts end of PGY 4 and PGY 5 FRCPC Emergency Medicine and Anesthesia residents as well as Critical Care Medicine Fellows from accredited Canadian residency/fellowship programs. Senior learners from other streams of training may be considered for individual approval by the base Medical Director. There are no blackout dates reserved for specific resident groups.

What about more junior residents and medical students?

Due to the complex and independent nature of care provided during the elective we do not offer electives for medical students or more junior residents. For these learners, we do offer a one-day ride-along experience. Note that space in this ride-along program is limited and is not offered May through October in Calgary due to the high number of learners during this time.

Please note that individual EMS rotations for each of the sites may involve STARS ride-along days and these are arranged through the ground EMS administrator.

What do I need to be able to do during the elective?

Most importantly, STARS transport residents need to be able to work well in a critical care team. Each flight crew is comprised of a flight paramedic and flight nurse with advanced skills in critical care; the resident flies as a third member of the team.

Airway management, chest tube placement, and central venous cannulation must be able to be performed in an independent and capable fashion. The ability to place a transvenous pacemaker is not a required skill but should such a device be required the transport resident will be replaced/accompanied on the flight by the attending transport physician.

In addition, transport residents are required to present educational rounds and assist with STARS' Human Patient Simulation (HPS) and Mobile Education Unit (MEU) programs. Educational rounds are a sixty-minute interactive grand rounds given to air medical crew and transport physicians. The HPS program is taught monthly by attending transport physicians; flight residents are required to attend the sessions as an assistant instructor. The MEU program is a mobile simulation program designed to deliver training in the communities serviced by STARS. HPS scenarios are delivered to nurses, paramedics and physicians in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba; flight residents are expected to travel with the team to deliver the content of these scenarios.

What are the requirements to apply for the elective?

You must be in good standing with your provincial medical licensing body and must be eligible for resident licensure in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. You must be fluent in both spoken and written English. A letter from the your residency program director outlining your capacity for independent practice with respect to the specific procedures outlined above as well as for independent decision-making will be required as well. Please note that the elective director at each site may wish to speak to you directly during your application process to verify this.

When can applications be made for the elective?

Applications are accepted up to one year in advance for the specified block. It is strongly recommended that you list several blocks of availability in order of preference; these electives are booked very quickly at all of our bases. Please note that academic blocks 12-13 and 1-3 in Calgary are reserved for University of Calgary FRCPC Emergency Medicine residents.

What else should I know about the elective?

If you become motion sick easily, you may want to reconsider applying for this elective. The helicoper environment can easily trigger nausea in some people.

Electives at all bases are subject to change. If space is needed for other learners due to specific operational needs, your elective may need to be cancelled by STARS.

You will be required to speak to the medical director responsible for scheduling electives to ensure that your command of English is appropriate for the elective.

The resident is responsible for all provincial licensing fees as well as for transport and accommodation.

Western Canada is cold regardless of what month your elective is in. Please bring warm clothes (no synthetic materials, please) and sturdy footwear. STARS will loan you all other necessary flight gear.

These electives are adaptable: if there is a specific non-medical expert role that you are interested in learning about, please make the program coordinator aware of this. We have excellent resources available in administration, education and research and can make time for you to explore these aspects of STARS.

Who should I contact to set up my elective?

Please contact us at to submit an elective request.