This week, we caught up with Stephanie Santiago, an EMT and Field Training Officer to talk about working as an AVO while in EMT school, helping people during some of their hardest times, and learning from others along the way.
What inspired you to get involved in EMS?
What initially brought me into EMS actually was the pandemic, believe it or not. It was during 2020, I was working in a doctor’s office, and I just wanted to get more hands-on in taking care of patients and helping out. I had a friend who went into EMT school, so I thought, I want to try this out, and here I am.
I’ve always loved the medical field and I’ve always loved taking care of people so I thought this was a really great opportunity to do so in a different setting.
How was getting your certification and passing the test?
My experience in EMT school was actually really great. I enjoyed it. I thought it was really fun. I was able to have a study group so we learned together, we did all the in-person practical skills together so it was great. The process was really smooth, I signed up for the RWJ EMT school program and got started like the month after I signed up.
What made you choose On Time?
Through the RWJ EMT school program they do different recruiting seminars, and I loved some of the things that On Time offered. I hadn’t yet received my certification so it was a great way to get my foot in the door working as an AVO and get started that way. I thought, what a great opportunity, I can start gaining that experience while working towards my certification.
You’ve moved up the ladder quickly, starting as an AVO moving on to EMT, and now a Field Training Officer (FTO). How do you think you were able to do that so quickly?
I think that the management of On Time does a really great job lifting employees up and encouraging us. You don’t really think that they can see the hard work you're putting in, but they do, and they recognize that on Workplace and elsewhere. And so I think that if there's any reasoning to that it’s them recognizing hard work. They do an awesome job recognizing hard work and they’re very encouraging.
What’s your favorite part of working as an EMT?
My favorite part is the patient care. I love meeting different people, speaking with them, and taking care of them. You have a really unique opportunity to speak to people during a really tough time in their life. And that can either be a good thing, or sometimes a bad thing, but it can be a really good thing to encourage them like, “Hey just take it one day at a time. I hope you get better,” and different things like that; helping make them feel better.
Also meeting different employees and the new hires. Some have more experience, some have less, but you have something to learn from everybody. From the newest to the oldest in EMS there’s something to learn from everybody.
What’s the toughest challenge you face in your work?
When you run into situations where you may not know what to do, maybe a particularly challenging transport, that might be the hardest. But I’ve built such awesome relationships with my partners and coworkers, you can depend on each other in those situations. With management also, you’re never left behind or in the dark or anything. There’s always someone to help.
Do you have any advice for someone thinking of getting into EMS?
Honestly, just do it. I know everybody says it, but it’s a really rewarding field. And it’s a great stepping stone. We have so many people here that, for example, they’re in PA school, they’re in medical school, they’re going to become nurses, etc. It’s an awesome stepping stone to gain experience and get your foot in the door for anything really in healthcare.
I plan on being a social worker so I’m working towards that right now. I’m finishing out my Bachelor’s Degree now and working towards getting my Master’s degree as well.
People may think that because it’s not technically healthcare that it’s not similar to my work now. But it is similar in the sense that you’re dealing with people during some of the hardest moments of their lives.
So for new EMTs, don’t be scared, just go for it. It’s not a scary field, it’s one where you’re going to continually learn. And when you get started, learn as much as you can. Everyone has their own methods, their own tips and tricks, and there’s so much wisdom from everybody.