Pennington First Aid Squad, Pennington, NJ
This summer, I was given the opportunity to support my community by working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic with the Pennington First Aid Squad (PFAS) as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). My journey as an EMT began at Williams during Winter Study of my freshman year when I took an EMT class through the Northern Berkshire EMS. When I returned home in Spring 2020, I completed my certification by passing the national exam, and I officially joined PFAS as an EMT.
Working as a first responder appeals to me because it is one of the few roles where one has the ability to help others in a uniquely direct way. When someone calls 911, he or she is having one of the worst days of their life. Being one of the people who shows up and works to make that situation better is an experience unlike any other. Responding to emergency calls is exciting and dynamic; one is thrust into challenging environments that demand critical thinking, strong leadership, and perseverance. Decisions must be made quickly, and they must always be the right ones—a delay or a poor decision could cost a life.
I experienced a wide variety of calls during my time as an EMT. Of course, there were relatively straightforward calls where we helped an elderly patient back into bed. There were messy motor vehicle accidents. And there were stressful calls in the middle of the night to transport patients to the nearest hospital. Every call was eye-opening and challenged me in different ways, whether it was through technical medical skills or understanding the patient’s needs. I honed my practical medical skills as an EMT, and, crucially, learned how to effectively interface with patients.
I was also given the opportunity to undergo training at a local fire academy. I was eager to develop a fuller understanding of these emergency services —after all, fire and EMS agencies often work in tandem—and gain new skills. Training at the fire academy took place over a few weeks. We learned everything from hose advancement to search and rescue; fire behavior to fire survival tactics; and developed our teamwork and leadership skills. Just like when I was with patients on the ambulance, effective communication was a cornerstone of everything we did.
As I complete this internship, I’m reminded of the value of practical education—that is, learning in the field, rather than the classroom. I’m reminded of the importance of strong leaders in civil service positions. And most notably, I’m reminded of the value of serving others—even at a cost to yourself.
I am extraordinarily grateful to have been given this opportunity allowing me to explore a career as a first responder this summer.