Matthews, NC: The Enterprise of EMS

I love to talk to women who are passionate about their jobs. I think conversations like the one below are important; they add to a culture of encouraging ambitious women to pursue their dreams + succeed in their careers!

Emily is an local Emergency Medical Technician. Her career began a year and a half ago after completing a Charlotte EMT program, practical exams, and state exam.

Over a breakfast of bagels and coffee, Emily and I discussed her passion for healthcare, experience with EMS, and self care routine.

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Emily credits her attraction to working in healthcare in part to having a veterinarian father. “I’m fascinated by healing!” Emily exclaims, recounting observing surgical procedures with enjoyment and a long-time interest in the effects of medication. She loves the ingenuity in medicine, especially the way healthcare workers strive to better themselves and the lives of everyone else.

When asked what personality trait make her well-suited for healthcare, Emily names her healing personality -a combination of natural empathy and compassion. She loves to help others, and wants each of her patients to leave in improved emotional and physical condition. “I’m an amateur therapist!” she laughs, recalling the way friends tend to come to her when needing to talk. She enjoys connecting with her patients, especially when one of them “shows their entire heart to her.” Emily understands the responsibility that comes with her position; patients look to her in the worst moments of their lives! She expresses a love for the relief in her patients’ faces upon her arrival as she knows her presence is a significant comfort to them.

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Emily works 40 hours per week with opportunity for overtime. Her schedule is flexible; her rotating shifts are between eight and thirteen and a half hours in length, with two days on and two days off duty. Emily says a typical shift consists of seven to fifteen calls, with each call taking an hour on average to complete. Lunch and restroom breaks are unscheduled -only to be taken if there is a spare moment!

When I asked about local EMS workplace culture, Emily replied, “I love it!”  The county has more than 500 employees, giving EMS providers opportunities to make new connections with every shift. Emily says due to shared experiences involving working strange hours, uncommon situations, and generally unapproachable topics (accidents, violence, mental health, etc.), bonds between EMS professionals serve as a great support system.

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When I asked Emily what the most difficult thing about being an EMT is, she quickly responded, “letting go of trauma that isn’t mine.” She finds that assisting patients with physical problems is much easier than helping patients to cope with emotional or psychological distress. “The hard calls are when you are dealing with a battered woman or a hurt child,” Emily explains, “People don’t realize that emotional healing is just as important as physical healing!” Because of her aforementioned healing personality, Emily finds herself empathizing easily with patients dealing with emotional/psychological trauma. She says she has had to learn to maintain emotional boundaries; as soon as the call is completed, she must be ready to attend to the next call’s patient with just as much attentiveness and care.

Self care is a essential on Emily’s days off. She realized that to recover from her demanding job, she must be intentional about taking time alone to recharge -despite being an extrovert! Emily has developed a self care routine that works well for her. She lists practicing yoga, journaling, and driving with her favorite music on blast as her favorite ways to relax. After full reset, she spends time with her friends (often other EMS workers) with whom she can externally process.

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In EMS, Emily has found a fulfilling career with meaningful interactions and a family atmosphere. She emphasizes that being an EMT, though meritorious, is not all glamour. “I don’t put on a badge and run out the door and be a hero. It’s not all chest compressions and saving lives!” She regards her work in simpler terms: being an EMT is holding the hand of an elderly dementia patient who persistently requests their deceased spouse or amusing an anxious child with a blood pressure cuff during an ambulance ride. “I finally found a job that I would do for free,” Emily enthuses, “Being able to get a paycheck for something that I would gladly do for a free on a daily basis is the greatest thing that has ever happened!”

Emily plans to advance her EMS career by becoming a licensed paramedic. As a paramedic, she will be able to provide her patients better care, equipped with more knowledge and an advanced skill set.

-Elizabeth A.

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