Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chelle Cordero - EMS/EMT, More Than a Family Affair

Paramedic Julie Jennings, the heroine of Final Sin, and author Chelle Cordero share a passion for Emergency Medical Services. In real life Chelle is a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with her community ambulance corps in New York State; her entire family is in EMS and both of her kids have careers in the field.

Hi, I’m Chelle Cordero and I am fortunate enough to be a full-time freelance writer. In my “spare” time I volunteer as a NYS EMT with my community ambulance corps. My training is the same as any other NYS EMT – this difference is most often frequency and experience riding the ambulance. EMS is truly a family affair: my husband has been a vollie EMT for 26 years, I’ve had 24. Both of our kids grew up as genuine EMS brats and joined the youth squad at the age of 14. They are both grown now and have full-time careers in EMS; daughter is a paramedic and son is an EMT. Both kids also vollie with the ambulance corps. Even my son’s serious gf is an EMT vollie and my son-in-law volunteers with the corps in a non-medical position.

Just to clarify – EMS stands for Emergency Medical Services and that represents the system. An EMT is a trained (depending on the state certified or licensed) medical professional and an integral part of the first responder team. Ion NYS there are four levels of EMT – basic, intermediate, critical and paramedic. The basic EMT handles basic life support which can include everything from broken bones to cardiac arrest and childbirth; EMTs can administer a limited number of drugs including oxygen, aspirin, nitroglycerin, albuterol and epinephrine. Skill sets and protocols increase with each level. The paramedic is the highest trained medical professional outside of clinical settings; “paramedic” actually means “hands of the doctor”. A paramedic can do IV therapy, administer a full range of drugs, intubate and pronounce death. As first responders, EMTs and paramedics arrive at scenes and have to make quick judgments and decisions in situations that often rely on a crucial few minutes.

As if it weren’t time consuming with all of us in EMS, I decided to make one of my heroines a paramedic. I am going to let Julie Jennings, the heroine of Final Sin, tell you more about being a paramedic:

C: Hi Julie, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where were you raised? What did your parents do?

J: Sure Chelle. I grew up in upstate New York on a farm – it was my parents, two older brothers and myself. Obviously my parents were farmers. My brothers and I had lots of chores to do around the farm.

C: Can you briefly describe your job/position?

J: I’m a Paramedic in NYS – but it doesn’t really matter which state; a Paramedic is a medical professional who is trained primarily in pre-hospital emergency medical care. Think of the back of the ambulance as a portable emergency room with Basic and Advanced Support level providers giving life saving care to critically injured or ill patients in-route to the hospital.
Paramedics and EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technicians – and I have GREAT respect for all levels) are generally First Responders. We arrive on the scene of an accident or illness and do our best to treat patients and keep their condition stable during the ambulance ride. Since we are first to treat medically, we often make a huge difference in the outcome.

C: How long have you been in this position? Did you move into this spot from another position in the same company? What did it take to advance to this spot?

J: A Paramedic achieves the highest medical training for a pre-hospital emergency provider – the word PARAMEDIC means “Hands of the Doctor”. My training includes advanced skills in intubation, cardiac monitoring, defibrillation, intravenous therapy, drug administration and specialized rescue techniques. I had to take approximately 1100 hours of instruction and almost a year and a half of didactic instruction and clinical experiences in the hospital and an ambulance internship.

My character is only 24-years old and I’ve been a Paramedic for 2-years; before that I started out as a volunteer with my local ambulance corps and got certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (By the way, I still volunteer as well as work in the field). A Basic EMT-is trained to provide basic life support for critically ill and injured patients with such skills as airway management, CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation), controlling accessible bleeding and treating for shock and poisoning. Depending on local protocols, they can administer Oxygen, Aspirin (for possible cardiac problems), Nebulizer treatments, Epi-Pens, give oral glucose and much, much more.

C: Have there been any major changes in the position’s responsibilities/description since you have been in the spot? Can you tell us the most memorable call you’ve ever taken?

J: The state and region are always updating protocols in order to provide the best possible response and treatment. Hospital ER’s have made many advances to improve the partnership between the hospital ER and pre-hospital care. I think the biggest changes are in the field of technology – for instance, patient info can be sent electronically from dispatch and from us to the hospital in many cases which greatly enhances communication and patient care.

My most memorable call was when I was volleying as an EMT before I got my Paramedic certification – a young woman fell asleep behind the wheel and flipped her vehicle. She sustained severe blows to her spine and by the time we got her to the hospital, she had lost all feelings in her legs – she was technically paralyzed. My partner and I were very careful in the way we “packaged her” and put her on a long board to protect her spine. The doctors said that it was the care we took that preserved her spine and when the swelling went down, they were able to make enough repairs for her to actually walk down the aisle at her own wedding half a year later.
C: What were your original career goals?

J: I guess I always wanted to help people in some way. I was raised on a farm and helped to take care of the animals as a youngster. My older brother became a veterinarian and I liked the medical “miracles” he was able to pull off. I became interested in medicine and enjoyed the spontaneity of responding to emergency situations, so I began my career in EMS (Emergency Medical Services).

C: Did this position exist before you were placed in it? Are you the first female to hold this position in your company?

J: There have been many female paramedics – as a matter of fact, one of my “proctors” on the ambulance when I first started out was female and she is a woman I still admire very much to this day. She is now a station lieutenant and makes some fantastic administrative decisions as well as continuing to ride and respond to emergencies.

Females are still in the minority in EMS but our numbers are growing. Many stations have tried to make gender specific accommodations, but that isn’t always easy. It is also not really a priority to most of us – we just want to work together to get the job done and it doesn’t matter whether our partners are male or female.

C: How are you received by others in your place of employment? By the public in general?

J: LOL, I am still a youngster in my department with only 2-years under my belt. But I am very lucky to be treated with respect. I am part of a team.

I think one of the things about the public perception of medical first responders that bothers me is that folks don’t always realize how highly trained we are. And while some may aspire to be doctors one day, we are NOT “wannabee” doctors or nurses. As I said earlier, we are Medical Professionals with a very specific specialty and training.

As for being a woman in the field, I am expected to carry my own equipment, help carry patients, treat patients of both genders, and not be squeamish about blood and such. “There is no sex in EMS” is a phrase my instructors used constantly. We are there to do a job and it doesn’t matter whether we are women or men – we have the same responsibilities and jobs.

C: What advice would you give to a young woman who might be looking at your type of position/career in the future?

J: My first words would be “Go for it!” Sometimes the results can be heartbreaking, sometimes thrilling. My favorite type of call has always been childbirth and I’ve delivered a few infants in the field – wow, what a high. But even when you lose a patient, you at least know that you did everything you could to give them every chance and I think they all know it even when they’re unconscious or such – they aren’t alone.

It’s not easy but the work is really rewarding. I really recommend it to a lot of people. Do it the way I did, start out as a volunteer; you will get training and experience that is unparalleled. Even though I work in the field every day (or it seems that way), I still love it when I get to volley and give back to my community. I really do love my job.

C: If you could limit it to just one thing, what do you like about your job?

J: I like the fact that people know you're there to help them. Even when you lose a patient, they know they weren't alone. Somebody was trying to help them. I like to think that's a comfort.

Julie, thanks for taking a step off of the pages today to let us know about being a paramedic. I’ve always been a bit of a trauma junkie myself and enjoy the fast pace of emergency response.

Chelle Cordero is the author of romantic suspense and murder mystery novels. Readers can find out more about her at or her blog at .

----------------------------------------- Chelle Cordero, Author / Chelle Cordero Website Chelle's Online Portfolio


Savanna Kougar said...

Chelle, absolutely fascinating. I know EMTs, paramedics do heroic deeds everyday. Just doing their jobs saves many lives, helping people when they need it most in that kind of circumstance.

I do have an offbeat question. Given I'm allergic to all medical drugs, is there some way to let a paramedic know that, say if you're unconscious or can't talk?
And, even if you told them, would they still administer drugs?

Bekki Lynn said...

Chelle, you'll be happy to know that most of our EMS/EMT are female.

How do you handle the emotional aspects when you find you know the victims? Is there a place you set your mind so it doesn't get to you and interfere with the job you must do? Or does it drive you to work faster, more diligently?

Chelle Cordero said...

Hi Savanna & Bekki Lynn, thanks for stopping by.

Savanna, there are Medic Alert tags that are pre-printed with medical allergies and conditions; some companies custom print these tags if you need for multiple allergies and/or conditions or other unusual situations. I recently heard that there was a company designing attractive "jewelry" that doubles as Medic-alert tags since some folks didn't like the old "dog-tag" look. Ask your local pharmacist for Medic-alert IDs.

Bekki Lynn, In 24 years, since I vollie in my own community, I have had several occasions when I personally know the patient or their family. You learn to separate and put yourself entirely in the role of provider. After wards though it can get to you and if it becomes too much, you have resources available that can help you such as CISD (critical incident stress debriefing).
You mentioned that most of your EMS/EMT are female, are you part of this system?

Lindsay Townsend said...

Chelle- thank you for sharing this. Utterly fascinating!

My cousin is a paramedic and my dad's sister was a nurse and my great grandma a nurse and midwife. (She was given the freedom of Pontefract for setting up the first mother and baby clinic.)

Chelle Cordero said...

What a great history Lindsay - I am so impressed about your great grandma and that clinic! Kudos to your cousin, is he/she offspring from your dad's sister? Wonder if that is where the medical interests came from.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Chelle - female cousin Pat. Her mum is a nursing sister. Pat started as a driver of the ambulances going to and fro from clinics and worked her way through from there. I'm impressed with all she's achieved.

Chelle Cordero said...

I have a whole lot of respect for career EMS. LOL, I would be too scared to drive a rig in an emergency - my kids & hubby can do it, I would be too nervous.

Jane Richardson said...

First response teams are amazing, and I've got a lot of admiration and respect for people who do it. I know that you train to deal with the emotional aspects and so on too, but that doesn't make it any less amazing in my eyes. I've got Final Sin on my e-reader, doubly intrigued now!
Savanna - you can get some really funky ID wristbands on-line too. I'll find a link for you. :)

Jane x

Savanna Kougar said...

Jane, thanks!
I need to do that.

Mona Risk said...

Chelle, this is so interesting. I had the opportunity to ride in ambulance several tis when my mother was transported to the hospital. I could observe first-hand the efficiency of the paramedics, men and women. I owe them my mother's life.

Chelle Cordero said...

Jane, thanks for finding out about the ID wristbands for Savanna. Hope you enjoy Final Sin.

Mona, glad your inside view of the ambulance was positive. I've been an ambulance patient myself twice, once after a car accident and once from an asthma attack (both times it was my home ambulance corps) and I was very comforted by their skill.