Jose Lopez is an EMT from Woodbridge, New Jersey and a college student pursuing a career in nursing. We recently caught up with Jose via Zoom to ask about working as an EMT during a pandemic, giving back to the community, and power cots.
Josè, thank you so much for your time.
Can you tell us about your background in EMS? How did you get started?
I started out volunteering for an ambulance company in Woodbridge, the Volunteer Squad. Usually in Woodbridge we rode in groups of three. I would be surrounded by my EMT volunteers and they would guide me. Certain situations are intense, and having other people with experience on-scene with you can provide a lot of clarity and peace of mind. For me, it helped build up a lot of confidence. Then once I earned my EMT License I came to On Time.
What inspired you to want to start volunteering as an EMT?
I think just a sense of general outreach for the community. Woodbridge is a big town and I’ve lived here for many years, and so I thought that it’d be a great opportunity to give back to my community and really get a deeper look at the people and the culture of Woodbridge.
What are some of your career goals --- and how does your work now connect to those?
Well I’m currently in school right now at Middlesex County College, and my future career goal is to be a nurse. I’d love to be a nurse.
Here with On Time, I get the opportunity to go essentially all over the Tri-State Area (I’ve been to so many hospitals now), and see in person what different healthcare workers do, whether that’s in the hospital, in the nursing home, in a dialysis facility, and in our care. It just piques my curiosity going to these places and doing these unique transports.
How is it balancing work and going to school?
I work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and I have classes Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s a really nice break throughout the week, to go to work one day and go to class the next.
The schedule is very flexible here. I can call them up and say, “Can I change my schedule for this semester?” or “are these hours available?”
They put a lot of effort into providing us with a flexible schedule that fits our lifestyles.
Obviously there’s a pandemic going on right now. How has it been to work in this kind of environment and do you feel safe?
Our FTOs, (Field Training Officers) they’ve just been phenomenal people --- always ready to receive any of our concerns or questions regarding COVID. They jumped on it right away and supplied us with masks and gowns and all sorts of things needed for COVID response. And we just always go out of our way to make sure of the safety of our patients and ourselves.
What made you choose On Time specifically?
Power stretchers. That sounded pretty cool. I also... I liked the color scheme --- the blue and the white. But I think there were a number of things that drew me in.
How would you describe the company culture?
Very open. There’s a lot of openness and just a general compassion. There’s even room for vulnerability; like, “Hey I’ve had a tough day,” or maybe some transports were difficult.
It’s nice to know that there are people I trust, other EMTs and my supervisors, and that I can go to them, in good times and in harder times, and they’re so open and compassionate to listen to us and be there for us.
And we’re keen on clear communication, asking questions, and voicing any concerns. That really helps our confidence when we’re out on the road.
What advice would you give someone thinking of getting into EMS?
Just be open. And don’t be afraid. We’re in these situations where we’re there for somebody else. They might be a stranger to us, but that’s someone’s mom or dad or best friend, and we’re provided with an opportunity to serve them in a caring and compassionate way.
It’s a phenomenal opportunity to be of service, to give up yourself, and to get that firsthand view of what that giving of self really looks like. And it’s a great first step into recognizing what good healthcare is all about: teamwork, community, passion, and charity.