Working on the Front Lines: My Experience as an EMT During the Pandemic

Kent State of Wellness student ambassador Mary Griffin shares her experience as an emergency medical technician working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last August, I obtained my EMT (emergency medical technician) certification and initially got a job in private patient transport a few months later. In this field of EMS, I would take patients who need assistance to doctors’ appointments, dialysis and home from the hospital. I also helped to transport patients who needed transferred between hospitals for further evaluation if they were unable to be discharged or needed constant monitoring by a medical professional. At this company, we did not run 911 emergency calls, however, once the COVID-19 pandemic started I needed and wanted another job -- somewhere where I would be on the front line, really helping the community through this pandemic. A few of my coworkers at my job were also on Windham Fire Department and said that they were hiring. I applied, got the job and then began my 911 career. 
Mary Griffin (pictured left), Kent State of Wellness Student Ambassador, shares her experience working as an EMT during the pandemic.


The transition from private transport to 911 is already a difficult transition and throwing a global pandemic into the mix did not make it any easier. In the fire service, you will go from 0-100 mph constantly, from sitting around eating dinner to getting a call that someone isn’t breathing. This doesn’t allow much room for panic when the call is serious. It’s common for the new people at the department to get freaked out. They may know what they are doing in a non-emergency situation, and can recite from the textbook what to do, but when you are on scene with people around watching and the clock ticking, every textbook you’ve read goes out of your head and you have to rely on sheer instinct.


My instincts do not always remember to take pandemic precautions. Remembering to take a temperature or ask simple questions regarding travel or flu-like symptoms may seem like a small and easy thing to remember, but as a new EMT, my mind is more focused on how to properly open an airway or how to put a 12 lead on while assisting the paramedic in whatever ways they need, so often temperatures may go unchecked until the patient is in the hospital. 


My partner (at both of my jobs) had an easier transition into emergency calls as she has had more experience in the field and she started working at the fire department a few months before the pandemic. However, we both have had similar difficulties in remembering to place a mask on the patient and if there are back-to-back runs (which often there is), having time and remembering to fully decontaminate the squad and all equipment. These are small but vital things to remember and prioritize nowadays.  


Overall, I have loved every minute of being at this fire department and I wouldn’t change my experience for anything. Working during this pandemic has given me challenges that I otherwise would not have ever dreamed of facing and has made me a better EMT. The new protocols are slowly being worked into my instincts so that when next I panic, I can rely on them to keep myself, my partner and my patient safe from the situation and environment.

POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2020 - 11:52am
UPDATED: Monday, August 31, 2020 - 1:33pm
Mary Griffin, EMT and Kent State of Wellness Student Ambassador