Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services
“I really didn’t think of being a paramedic when I started the certification program; I just thought it would help me get a job as I went through nursing school. But then I just fell in love with it and decided to become a paramedic after all. I love the fact that whether it turns out to be a true emergency or not, somebody needed help and I get to be that person. I love that I get to bring a little calm to the chaos.
“Our instructors at in the program really, really cared about what they’re teaching; it’s obvious that they love their jobs and are passionate about what they do. They know it’s knowledge-based training — that their students can make a difference between somebody living or dying. You can tell that they want to graduate students who can hold up not only the reputation of the program, but of the whole profession.
“Most of us who choose this line of work don’t have long attention spans. Some, particularly the firefighters, aren’t used to so much time with theory and books, but the instructors make it so fun and entertaining even when it’s eight hours of lecture.
“The best part of the program was the size of the classes; they really take care to keep the student-instructor ratio low. Our instructors were always very approachable so that if we had questions, issues or problems, there was always someone you could find and ask. They set you up to succeed and have resources available to make you successful. From the very beginning, they encourage teamwork, because that’s what you need in the field; you’re not out there by yourself.
“I love so many things about my job. When you show up for a call, you never know what you’re going to walk into; it keeps you on your toes. I also love that I work as a part of a team — I don’t work for the fire department, but we interact with a lot of public service agencies.
“A lot of people can’t really deal with daily life and don’t know what a true emergency is — about half of the calls I make, I use my medical knowledge, but the other half I just use common sense. I really, really love what I do. Never underestimate the fun of sparkly lights and a siren.”
Meredith Rima Garee had already earned a bachelor’s degree in community health from Texas A&M University before she earned her Paramedic certification in August 2008. She was hired that same month as a field paramedic for the city of Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services department. She works a hybrid shift of 48 hours a week, with one 24-hour shift and two 12-hour shifts; she and her partner take turns driving the ambulance and caring for patients, switching throughout each shift.