Jesika Paxton is an EMT at On Time and nursing student in an Accelerated Associates Program set to graduate in August. We caught up with Jesika to ask about balancing work and school, working during COVID, and her advice to young aspiring nurses.
Jesika, thank you so much for your time.
What inspired you to get into the nursing profession?
Well, I got my Bachelor’s in Psychology, and then my Master’s in Forensic Psychology. I was working as a Family Therapist for a non-profit, and it just didn’t really appeal to me.
I guess after a while, I needed a change in career. And I knew a lot of people who went into nursing; a lot of family members, a lot of friends. I found out you can pretty much do anything, you can work anywhere, and go anywhere with a nursing degree. So I decided to look more into it, and with my background in psych, I figured it could be kind of an easy segue to becoming a nurse.
How is it balancing working while going to nursing school?
Not bad! I expected it would be kind of difficult. But it really hasn't been that bad. It's actually helpful working as an EMT and studying nursing.
I'm part-time at On Time. I work Saturdays and Sundays. I pick up shifts during the week when I can, but I have school Monday through Friday in the evenings, so that makes it kind of difficult. Saturdays I work a 5:00am to 3:00pm shift, and I do a 5:00pm to 5:00am shift on Sundays.
When I dont have classes, it’s easy to just pick up a shift. Having different shifts that I can pick from, whether it’s overnight or in the morning, has made it easy for me. And if I ever need to swap a shift or drop a shift, it’s really not that difficult. I havent had to do that yet, but I know I could if I needed to. :)
Working as an EMT while being a nursing student has made it an easier segue. I’m more comfortable in a hospital setting. It's not something that's scary. I don't feel out of place and I feel like I'm more confident now to speak up and say, “This is what we should, and shouldn’t, do in transport.”
I’ve learned a lot about patient care and the more empathetic side of nursing. It helps to interact with the nurses and see what they actually do. It's one thing to read a textbook, but when you’re actually working with the nurses, receiving reports, giving reports to them, that’s really helpful.
What made you pick On Time specifically?
Three reasons; 1) they had the sign-on bonus, 2) the hours were really flexible, and 3) Marlene from HR. She was really helpful and I felt like the process of being interviewed and then onboarding was very smooth.
How was that application and onboarding process?
My interview felt very relaxed. It felt like I was just having a regular conversation. I didn't feel the nervous jitters that you normally get during an interview.
Within two weeks, or so, I was sitting in orientation. I got detailed instructions about the process and what you do next, and this is when you’re going to go get fingerprinted and things like that. It was all sent in an email, so it was pretty easy.
What makes On Time different?
Number one, the safety aspect. For example, requiring a spotter. I haven't seen any other company implement that and it’s very helpful. Although some trucks have cameras, it’s very helpful to have your partner back there, backing you up.
Number two, as far as PPE, I’ve never seen us run out.
Number three, we have a contract with so many hospitals. You can kind of see all of New Jersey in one day because you work with so many different hospitals.
And then number four, the night-differentials (higher pay rates for overnight shifts). I don't know how many other companies do that. There’s also a very large sign-on bonus.
I've never met anyone at On Time that wasn't willing to help. If I have a question --- and I am a person who likes to ask questions --- they have never made me feel bad about it, about not knowing something or wanting to learn a bit more.
What’s the company culture like?
Everyone’s friendly. The supervisors are very approachable. I can approach anyone, an EMT like me, or a dispatcher, or a supervisor.
I even saw John Bush a few weeks ago in the office. He was like, “Hello! How are you? Are you getting enough hours? How are you doing?”
He’s very hands on. Joe Borer is very hands on. You’ll see the supervisors in the field, helping you out, working with you, having their own patients.
What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming an EMT?
Try it. Just go for it. See if it can work for you. What you’re doing is helpful and it’s relevant, so you're not just collecting a paycheck.
Especially if you’re a nursing student, it’s definitely something you should look into. You could end up on a truck working with a nurse and gaining experience and learning from them.
And it’s very relevant to nursing. People say the fields are so different. Yes, the protocols are different, the level of care is different, but it's relevant.
How is it working as an EMT during the COVID-19 pandemic?
When you go into the office, it’s pretty empty. There are signs everywhere saying, “You cannot congregate.”
A lot of people are working from home that were working in the offices. And there’s a large amount of PPE; N95s and surgical masks, gowns, gloves, the wipes that we can sterilize after every patient. Before you start your shift, you’re wiping everything down.
I’ve never once felt like, “This is unsafe.”
Marlene told me in the interview, “There’s a lot of PPE, you’re going to be okay.”
And she was not wrong. I've never come to work and felt like, “Oh, I don't want to be here today.”
I love it.