This week we sat down with Tanner Coles, On Time EMT and Army National Guard Medic, to find out what it's like to be in the Guard and how that work translates to being an EMT at On Time. Our conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Did you always want to serve in the military in some capacity? What made you want to join?
I was thinking about joining the military for a while and through the Army National Guard you’re able to get a free college education while serving part time and going to school.
So I decided to join on and ended up going as a medic through the 68Whiskey program. I kind of just went through the whole process and while I was there at the facility we were going through a list of jobs that were available and that was one of them so I was like "I’ll take that."
So I spent 2 months in Oklahoma doing basic training for the Army and then they shipped me to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas to the METC (Medical Education & Training Campus) that trains enlisted medical personnel. That’s where the Navy goes, Air Force, and the Army. I was there for four months and I got certified through the NREMT. They put everyone through, it's one of those requirements to be a medic in the Army. Then I came home after I finished that I started serving with my unit here, 102nd Cavalry in Westfield, and then I started working part time here at On Time.
What would you say to someone that’s thinking about joining the National Guard, but not sure and are on the fence a little bit?
I’m a big advocate for the National Guard. It has helped me a lot in my life. I'm able to go to school for free now. It just ended up being something that really worked out for me as far as like, me fitting in and feeling like I’m doing something I’m supposed to do.
It's just great overall and if you get in and you don’t like it, contracts are as short as up to three years. So you don’t have to be in for the rest of your life, you can get out and still get the benefits of going to school for free.
How would you say your time in the National Guard has prepared you for your career and life in general?
I've got all kinds of skills that will be with me for the rest of my life now. If I decide to go into law enforcement, nursing or anything like that, they'll be applicable. I’m able to do a couple of surgical procedures, start IVs, and all kinds of trauma treatments. I think it was a really good place to start.
What about your experience there helps you with your current job as an EMT, is there a crossover there?
When we go out in the field with the unit in the National Guard we’re not expected just to treat trauma, gunshots and all that. It’s more like, you’re required to help your soldiers that are under you altogether. So if they have basic problems like headaches, or you know just feeling weird, little things like that, you’re just required to be the overall healthcare advocate for the people you’re assigned to.
As an EMT for On Time, I’m learning to work with patients that require transport and someone to monitor their vitals and what not.
I think it's really about treating people in general. Not necessarily trauma cases or anything like that, just you know checking up on people, making sure people are okay.
I enjoy being able to see the civilian side and the military side. Having training in both overlaps, and you can’t have enough healthcare training.
What do you think is the most satisfying part about your job as an EMT?
Knowing that you’ve helped a person and that you’ve performed your job for that part of the person’s day. The nurses are relying on you and the patients are relying on you to make sure that there’s a smooth transition in between healthcare facilities or going from the hospital to home. You’re really in charge of that patient's well-being while they’re under your care.
What does it mean to you to care for your patient?
To take care of anything that they really need while they’re under your care. When you’re transporting them, making sure they're comfortable, making sure you’re monitoring their vitals to make sure they’re okay. Taking care of various other things just overall if they need something when they get to the next facility to keep a note in your mind, so you can tell the other nurses when they get there. Keeping track of what was done for them before you transport them, making sure it’ll be a smooth transition in between both healthcare facilities.
Is there an emotional aspect to patient care for you as well?
A lot of the patients have been in the hospital for weeks or have been dealing with health problems for a long time. They're often having emotional issues apart from their physical ones, so if you can try to comfort them and make that part of their day a little bit better, that's one of the main goals of your job.
What are your long-term career goals?
I’m looking to serve out a full career with the Army. I haven’t decided if I want to go active duty or not yet after I’m done with school. But, I’m definitely going to stay in as long as I can, probably. I love doing it. And if I decide to stay the civilian side and just continue working with the National Guard, I’ll probably go into law enforcement or continue to further my healthcare education and maybe get into nursing.
What are you studying in school?
Right now at school, I'm in Rowan University’s Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management program. They do a lot of things with homeland security and stuff like that. I’m looking into getting into that kind of field.
What would you say to someone that is considering becoming an EMT, but isn’t sure that’s the road they want to go down?
I’d say definitely look into it. It’s a really rewarding job and a good place to get your feet wet if you’re looking to get into healthcare. You can see what goes on in the hospitals and all that. Its one of the basic starting points of healthcare. So if you’re looking to get into healthcare at all, you’re probably going to want to get the experience as an EMT.
What makes it rewarding for you?
It's rewarding knowing that you’re taking care of that person and that you’ve helped him, his family, and the nurses taking care of him. They all feel secure with how he's being treated and cared for going from place to place.
This fall, Tanner's unit will be deploying for a year.
We wish you all the best and a safe tour, Tanner. Good luck with all of your endeavors.