“It’s about the patient.”

These four words shape the culture at STARS.

They guide the team in all we do, because everyone wants to contribute to making a difference and saving lives.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Greg Powell’s vision of saving lives through partnership, innovation and leadership transformed a struggling base primarily staffed with volunteers, to a respected life-saving organization with six bases across three provinces.

For Dr. Powell, a key aspect of culture revolves around safety. “The word safety has come to have many meanings. In the air medical community we think about it being an attitude, a mindset and an approach to professional life. Although our mission comes with some aviation and medical risk, managing the risk well is the hallmark of great programs.”

While safety is serious business, it’s not the only contributor to a healthy organization. “Our team works hard through the most stressful situations imaginable,” explains Dr. Powell. “It’s essential that we maintain a sense of humour and find time to bond as a team.”

Corinne Edwards, Edmonton base director, couldn’t agree more. “Despite the serious nature of the work we enjoy life and laugh. It makes doing a tough job easier.”

Cam Heke, Manitoba communications lead, has worked in both the Calgary and Winnipeg bases and has had the unique opportunity to spend time at every base over the seven years he’s worked with STARS. For him, recognition is a vital piece of the STARS culture.

“The STARS recognition program has evolved over the years where there are now several key non-monetary awards to let our employees know their contributions are valued,” he explains. One such award is the Life Saving Society Award for Service, which is given to every employee who has worked at STARS for four years or more. “This is very meaningful because even if you’re not directly involved with patient care, it connects us all to our core mission of saving lives.”

While each base has developed its own micro-culture, the commonality is always the focus on the patient. “In Saskatoon, we all pull together to do what needs to happen to fly the mission,” said Cindy Seidl, Saskatoon base director. “Why do people stay? We have a really positive environment and people are happy to come to work.”

For Betty Lou Rock, vice president, Manitoba operations, dedication to the cause is what fuels the team in Manitoba. “The people we hired in Manitoba have a really strong belief in the work STARS does,” said Rock. “They knew this would really make a difference in rural areas and they wanted to be a part of it.”

Part of the reason the base has such a strong culture is the mentorship provided by crews from Calgary and Edmonton when the base first opened. “I continue to marvel at the camaraderie and respect everyone has for each other,” said Rock.

Meanwhile, in Calgary’s head office, base director Jeff Morris says it is occasionally challenging to maintain the unique ‘small-base’ atmosphere that comes naturally at the other bases. However, one of the successful practices that has occurred over the past 30 years is the daily morning meeting. Every day, staff and crew gather in the dispatch area to share stories, recognize accomplishments and share the odd laugh.

“The morning meeting is engrained here and it connects all of us to the mission,”
said Morris.

Greg Curtis has been a pilot for STARS since it first began and has watched the culture morph over the years. “The culture was a self-motivation of the people,” said Curtis. “When you have people who just want to do good things, how do you not come out with a strong culture?”