This month’s EMT spotlight features Elizabeth Gray, a Field Training Officer from our Toms River, NJ location. In the following interview, Elizabeth sheds light on becoming an EMT, training new employees, staying safe during a pandemic, and learning from talented people around you.
What first inspired you to be an EMT?
I was always interested in the medical field. My grandfather was an EMT for many years in Wisconsin and was very involved with the American Red Cross. Hearing his stories and the way he was able to help others inspired me to pursue a career in EMS. After his passing from Parkinson’s, I really wanted to become involved and help those with health circumstances similar to his.
What was your schooling and certification process like?
The EMT process can be a matter of months to a year of schooling depending on which program you select. Once you complete your course, you take the (NREMT) exam to become state and nationally certified. I started by researching local EMT programs online, found a program that was a good fit, contacted them, and followed their guidance on how to obtain my EMT certification. My process involved taking weekly classes, studying for interim exams, and passing a final exam to complete the course. Finally, I studied and passed the NREMT exam to become fully certified!
Any advice on preparing for the test?
Really read the textbook and utilize as much of the practice time given in class as possible. Learning the medical vocabulary and body systems in the textbook is very helpful. It’s essential to develop and use good study habits to prepare for course exams and the NREMT exam. And the more you can familiarize and involve yourself in the field, the more comfortable, confident, and knowledgeable you will become.
What’s a common mistake that you see new EMTs making?
New EMTs tend to both underestimate and overestimate their skills. Your peers will have more respect for you if you ask for help or assistance in areas you aren’t fully comfortable in rather than making mistakes due to lack of knowledge or experience. New EMTs should also strive to learn from any mistakes made and use the learning lesson to become more proficient.
What does the FTO do and what are some of the challenges they face?
The FTO trains and supervises new EMTs and helps prepare equipment and vehicles for daily use. One of the biggest challenges we face is not having enough time to complete everything that needs to be done in a shift --- as medical transportation is a 24/7 service. This creates its own unique challenges due to time constraints. FTOs also have responsibilities for the new hires. We need to be very focused, detail oriented, and have excellent time management skills. It’s also essential to maintain a calm, professional demeanor while working under highly stressful conditions.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I like working in my chosen career and being able to help our clients. I also love getting to know everyone who has decided to join our team. I truly enjoy the time I’m able to spend field training our new EMTs and helping them become more comfortable and confident in their roles.
We have a wonderful group of people who exemplify On Time’s mantras and I enjoy introducing our new recruits to our team.
How were you able to rise through the ranks into a training officer position?
Partly because of my amazing supervisor, William Rebman, who recommended me for the position. William was originally my FTO when I first onboarded, and he has an unmatched desire to see us grow. I love being a part of the team and he recognized my passion for both the job and the company. It was through his encouragement and recommendation I was able to move up into the role.
"I’ve learned so much about areas of medicine I never considered before. New patients, experiences, and opportunities allow me to continue to learn more about the healthcare field every day.”
How is your work evaluated?
We have skill evaluations, peer feedback, client feedback, and direct contact with our supervisors and administrators. There are also incentives to encourage team members to grow and work to improve their overall client-facing experience.
Why did you decide to work with On Time versus a competitor?
I think they really care about what they stand for. Safety is truly top priority. I also appreciate the time they take to recognize their employees’ successes and those who show passion and professionalism. The company encourages us to strive for higher level positions and gives us tools for growth.
What’s a future career aspiration for you and how are you working towards your goals right now?
I would love to become a paramedic. One of our services is specialty care transportation which involves working directly with an RN with experience in the emergency department or intensive care unit. Many of the team members involved also have experience working as Paramedics. Having the opportunity to work with them one-on-one, I’m able to learn so much from their experience, knowledge, and mentorship.
How does On Time emphasize safety during the pandemic?
We’re provided with PPE and we take precautions to ensure our equipment is clean and everyone stays safe. Also, Herbert Simmons, our Safety Manager, is amazing about keeping our employees and patients safe with comprehensive safety programs, guidelines, and availability for help. He ensures safety is number one on all of our minds every day; everything from weather alerts to making sure proper protocols are being followed, etc.
What are some key takeaways you’ve learned so far in EMS?
It’s shown me why the need for medical transportation is so crucial. I’ve learned so much about areas of medicine I never considered before. New patients, experiences, and opportunities allow me to continue to learn more about the healthcare field every day. From patient care during transport, the logistics of medical transportation, to all of the various duties we have to our patients while in the field.
What’s your advice for someone thinking about getting into EMS without any prior experience?
Take time to investigate the field. Whether through online research or speaking with someone you know who has a connection to an EMT, speak with them and find out more about the occupation. You could also explore local EMT programs to see if the coursework and material interests you, and ask for any recommendations.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Elizabeth. We’re proud to have you as part of the team.