By Arielle Arbel, Executive Blog Director
EMT. Emergency Medical Technician. The certificate stares back at me as comforting relief trickles through my body. After 5 challenging months balancing my junior year of high school and the rigorous expectations of the EMT class, I was finally awarded my official certification from New York State.
Only 30% of certified EMTs are women, with that percentage dropping down to 20% for paramedics. I am now a part of that 30%, and proudly too. My contribution as a first responder is not something I take lightly. I have been given the right to serve my community, to be treated as an adult in serious healthcare settings. I have been given the privilage of making hurt 7-year olds smile and getting worried adults to laugh, but at the same time, I was given the burden of the depressing side of healthcare. I have given compressions to a dying 80-year old, witnessed my crew chief call time of death, heard Child Protective Services being called, observed a police officer restrain a violent patient trying to hurt our crew, seen family cry as their loved ones overdosed, watched a pregnant mother lose her child while I held her hand, and so much more. No matter how many happy and successful calls we get, I know in the back of my mind that somber and serious calls are lurking in the shadows. No matter the circumstance, I know my part helping patients is a virtue, something not any average person can do, and with this in mind I take my part in EMS with confidence.
With each new call a slurry of anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and pure adrenaline floods through my veins, and I don’t ever want that to change. The time it took for me to gain confidence in this field was well-earned and quick thanks to the amazing crew I get to volunteer with every Friday. Their vast experience and exceptional intelligence provides me with the relief of knowing I could ask for help if I needed it. With this in mind, I am never afraid to take initiative and try out newly learned skills for the first time. This, paired with my never-ending itch to volunteer as much as possible (even picking up extra shifts that were not on my original schedule), allows me to have the same trust in my skills as my crew has in theirs, making us an even stronger unit than before.
While the skills and confidence came easily, unfortunately, the respect did not. On the surface, when you look at me, all you see is a 5’3”, 17-year-old girl. Separated by my uniform color (navy blue for members over 18, baby blue for members 16-18), I was easily overlooked by other members in the agency. “Childish”, “weak”, “untrustworthy”. This is how I felt others viewed me. On calls with crews not familiar with me, I’d get the vitals I take double-checked by seniors, had the heavy bag filled with equipment taken out of my hands, was told to get out of the way when lifting patients using the reeves or stair chair, and was often regarded as an accessory for calls where a female member on the crew was needed (think maternity or sexual assault calls). Each time something of this nature happened, I’d bite my tongue, knowing it was not the time or place to stand up for myself.
After events like these would happen on calls, I’d confide to my best friend and Crew Chief Rebecca Finney. Only 18-years old, a fellow 5’3” girl, Rebecca was cleared by the agency. This, in layman’s terms, means the agency found her competent, skilled, trustworthy, and experienced enough to completely control and command calls. But just a year ago, at 17, she too had been in my shoes. This connection between us allowed me a safe haven of sorts. A place to vent my issues to someone whose past experiences can exactly relate to where I am now. With her support and full confidence in my skills, I slowly found the respect I so longingly wanted to earn. At this point, I can hopefully write into existence that with Rebecca’s guidance, I too, will be a Crew Chief as soon as I turn 18.
But my respected standing at the agency is not just thanks to Rebecca. My steady crew on Fridays, (Abe, Kevin, and Matt) have given me ample opportunities to prove myself since the moment I joined. Over the last few months, I’ve gained their respect as a valued member of their crew. Without each of their contributions to my slowly growing experience as an EMT, I wouldn’t be half the confident person I am today. Each time I’m with them they remind me I’m more than just what’s seen at the surface. I’m more than just a girl. Their constant support, encouragement, patience, and sense of humor changed my life forever. It made a simple hobby of mine become a lifestyle.
Now, each time I see my EMT card, a surge of confidence goes through me. While I may be a minority as a female, I play my part of the 30% proudly.
Image courtesy of Arielle Arbel (left), pictured with Rebecca Finney (right)