While thousands of people this March spent part of their Saturday at the 2019 Orange County Heart and Stroke Walk in Anaheim, three blue-clad emergency medical technicians stood nearby the action, watching to make sure everything was OK.
After the final walkers crossed the finish line, the trio met near the ticket office at Angels Stadium to go over the day’s events and prepare for their other role as West Coast University-Orange County nursing students.
“I think being an EMT kind of gives you that stepping stone into nursing. You get your feet wet, kind of get introduced to the action,” WCU-OC student Sarah Jones said. “I know a lot of people who go right into nursing school and then they get a shock to their system when they realize they don’t know what’s going on. Here we get to learn the basics and then we can build off of it.”
All three had worked as EMTs before joining WCU. Sarah and Alex Sudds lead the charge by enrolling first. Kaitlyn Nguyen signed up for the BSN program soon after and now all three are in the same cohort.
“We just like helping people. There’s something about the feeling to just be there and help somebody," Sarah said. "Keeps your heart pumping.”
As EMTs, it’s their responsibility to respond to emergency calls, perform basic life support medical services and help get the patient quickly to more advanced medical care. Kaitlyn said she liked many of the aspects of emergency medicine, but that she really enjoyed the idea of getting to know a patient and see them progress in their recovery.
“As a nurse, we get to do more detailed medication treatments," Kaitlyn said. "It's not just how quickly can you patch somebody and get them to the ER, so that’s kind of why we wanted to go to nursing school.”
One of the advantages of being an EMT, they said, was learning how to keep your wits in the middle of an emergency. As first responders, they've already seen a lot of action and are more prepared to deal with the emotions and stress that come with answering emergency calls.
“You’re able to deal with the adrenaline aspect of it. I think that’s where a lot of people get surprised when they get that initial shock and they have no idea what to do," Sarah said. "With us, we’re able to take a breath, take a step back, evaluate and then go in and do what we need to do.”
All three say they want to continue working as EMTs while in school, saying they enjoyed the flexible hours and shifts, plus all the hands-on experience they gain each day on the job.
“I’m going to keep doing this until I graduate with West Coast and then hopefully get a nursing job, but I’m going to stay with this until then," Alex said. "I love it.”