Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Volunteering Much More Than Time: Being an Emergency Medical Technician

Name: Ryan Thomas
From: Purcellville, Virginia
Grade: Senior
School: Woodgrove High School
Votes: 138

Youth Forward Scholarship Essay Ryan Thomas

Bright lights, screaming sirens, a shiny ambulance, and real life
emergencies are characteristic of my volunteer work as an Emergency
Medical Technician (EMT). I provide emergency medical care of the
basic life support capacity to individuals experiencing medical and
behavioral crises. The only expectation is that there is no
expectation of how a shift will go. I chose to be a volunteer first
responder/EMT because of my passion for making a difference in the
lives of others. I wanted something unique and rewarding, and I found
that at my local volunteer rescue squad.

I started volunteering my junior year of high school. Since then, I
have volunteered a total of 1,271 hours of duty hours (on an
ambulance, on call) and over 200 hours in class time, trainings and
hospital rotations for my EMT certification. I volunteer about 12-16
hours of my time a week towards running on the ambulance, averaging
about 60 to 70 hours total a month. My responsibilities as a
volunteer EMT are complex, as I serve as an “Attendant-In-Charge”
(AIC); this designates me as the lead technician and officer on the
unit/truck. On top of overseeing all medical care for my patient(s),
I also oversee the operations of my crew and work with other fire and
rescue units, the police department, and hospital staff. I must be
decisive in my care and advocate for my patient’s well-being from
the time I arrive on scene with my truck to the time the patient is
transferred to the hospital or other facility.

I think my biggest challenge as a volunteer EMT is being emotionally
invested in my work while also being emotionally detached from my
patient. It sounds paradoxical, but it is the essence of any job in
the medical field. I must put every part of myself into caring for
individuals; my physical strength, my mental knowledge, my motor
skills, and my compassion must all be applied in a delicate equation
to meet the needs of my patient. At the same time, I must be
completely detached from my patient, facilitating no internal
connection or investment in the patient’s life. It seems cruel, but
our job is to care while not caring about how one got into the
situation or their circumstances. Our patients come from a wide
variety of situations that require us to be transparent with our
feelings. “Bring only your bags of equipment and leave only knowing
you made a difference,” is the best way to phrase this.

The realization that I can make a visible impact as an EMT has given me
the greatest satisfaction. I have run my share of calls where
emergency medical interventions have saved a life, and there is no
greater feeling than knowing that you helped save that life. So often
volunteers are present only to do, but never to see the outcome.
Being an EMT has been rewarding in that I have been able to see some
of the differences that I have made.

I have learned a lot about life and my own self through my volunteer
work as an EMT. I think the greatest lesson I have learned about is
that we all die. As morbid as it is, it’s a fate all of us will
have one day. It has taught me to appreciate my own life and the
family, good health, and future that I have. It has made me recognize
the little things and the importance of giving my all with no
regrets. Being an EMT has also showed me first-hand the consequences
of decisions most of us will face at some point in our lives—the
biggest one being drugs and alcohol and their real consequences when
making stupid decisions (i.e. drinking and driving can ruin your life
and those around you, seriously). On a more personal note, I’ve
learned a great deal about professionalism and cooperation in the
medical field. It requires a great deal of communication ranging from
the time of the 9-1-1 call to the transfer of the patient to the
hospital staff. Being an eighteen year old EMT is certainly an
intimidating task, as I work with people who have more years in the
service than I do actual years in my life. I have never looked at my
age as a hindrance, but rather as an opportunity to show others that
determination and hard work are necessities in gaining respect. I
know I will continue to use this lesson as I climb the ladders of the
medical field and the fire/rescue field.

I see this activity as “forward looking” because it gives me the
exposure to the job, lifestyle, and work load of an ER nurse. Not
only does it give me real life experiences in medical situations, it
also gives me professional connections to hospital and medical world
that I can use later in my career. I hope that as an ER nurse, I can
foster the ideas of belongingness and happiness by bringing hope
(both physical and emotional) to people’s worst days and their
recovery from such events. I absolutely believe that if I looked back
on this activity in thirty years, I would still see the differences I
made. Would I physically see it? Probably not. But perhaps somebody
gets to live another ten, twenty, or thirty years because of what I
was able to do. I would hope that in that time span I would still be
volunteering happily and enthusiastically in my community. Being an
EMT has changed my life, given meaning to my life, and has answered a
calling to make a difference that I fully intend to pursue in my
future years.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".