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A Day in The Life of an Air Care EMT

It’s only natural that I would end up choosing a career as an EMT, especially considering my dad was a firefighter. I guess it runs in the family. I can honestly say, though, that there is nothing else I’d rather do than what I get to do every day as an EMT for the Orlando Health Air Care Team and the Orlando Fire Department. Like most people who work at Orlando Health, a big part of what I love about my job is helping patients heal. In my case though, I also thrive on the “emergency” part of it. Being the first to arrive on scene when someone’s been hurt or suddenly gotten sick, you have to think fast and act fast. And to do that, you have to remain calm when the stress level is at its highest. Throughout the course of my career, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do this consistently.

As part of the Orlando Health Air Care Team, my job is to provide emergency treatment as quickly as possible to stabilize patients who have an acute medical condition – such as cardiac arrest, seizure, trouble breathing, internal bleeding or drug overdose – or a severe injury, especially head and neck injuries or anything involving massive blood loss. Then, once the patient is stabilized, it’s our job to get them to the hospital by helicopter as quickly as possible.

In these situations, there’s no time to get a physician on the phone, then take the time to describe the situation and get instructions back, so we are expected to make a lot of decisions and make the right ones. We have a lot of autonomy, which is not always the case with a lot of medical jobs. In fact, the doctor we work with relies on our decision-making abilities. We do a lot of high-level stuff like giving blood, immobilizing patients, patching up holes and even putting holes in people if it’s necessary. There’s a lot of trust being put in us to make the right decision.

How it all started

People ask me all the time how I got interested in this kind of work. I first became interested in doing EMT work when I was pretty young after I joined the Orlando Fire Department Explorers, which is a program that introduces teenagers to firefighting as a career option. Later, when I was in EMT school, Air Care came out with their helicopters for a demonstration and it was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I thought, “Man, I really want to do that.”

After I finished EMT school, I worked as a paramedic in St. Petersburg and that involved some flying as part of the job, so I got even more interested as I realized how much I loved it. That led me to an opportunity with the Orlando Fire Department and then the Orlando Health Air Care Team.

Connection to the community

Now that I’ve been in this job for more than a decade, one of the things I enjoy most about it is being out in the community. I grew up on the west side of Orlando and it’s an area that always feels like home when I go there on a call and treat a patient who really needs help. As time has gone on, I find myself working all over Central Florida in many different neighborhoods. No matter who I come across, I treat them all the same because at the end of the day, each patient I see is just another member of the Orlando community.

My attitude is that this helicopter doesn’t belong to Orlando Health. It might say Orlando Health on the side, but the helicopter belongs to every patient we transport, every citizen of Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake and Volusia County. Wherever we fly, we’re an extension of the cardiologist, neurologist, trauma surgeon, the people who start the care once we get to the hospital. We’re the link between the community and the care.

It’s hard to describe what it means to do this kind of work, which I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. It’s kind of like if you grow up your whole life as a Yankee fan and play baseball as a kid, then one day you’re in a Yankee uniform playing in Yankee Stadium. Every time I show up to work, I still can’t believe that I work there!

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Serving 1.8 million Central Florida residents, Orlando Health is one of Central Florida’s largest employers. This is where you can find a career with a family of caregivers – each focused on helping our patients. No matter your role, you’ll play a part in providing patient-focused care in a supportive, encouraging environment.

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