Taking Service to the Next Level – Volunteering as an EMT

Employee Spotlight - Wes Wagoner: EMT and Customer Service Representative

Wes Wagoner, a five-year veteran customer service representative at AED Superstore, recently decided to become a volunteer EMT for his hometown Fire and Rescue Department in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin. This was not an easy decision for him, nor was it an easy position to acquire.

“I went to night school two nights a week, and one Saturday a month, for six months at Nicolet Area Technical College’s classroom at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff, WI,” says Wes, “and did my clinical time with Medic 5, which works out of Howard Young as well.”

Asked if the courses were difficult, he said he was surprised at just how difficult. “A lot of people who have been in EMS for years told me the EMT-B course was a piece of cake. Well, I don’t know what cake they have been eating, but the course will challenge anyone. There is so much to learn!”

Even though Wes’ interest in EMS work had been brewing for a long time, it was his career at AED Superstore, where he talked to and worked with ambulance crews, fire departments, and others who had performed CPR, which kept his interest growing. “I finally had to take the leap and get the education needed so I could personally get the experience that so many of the people I deal with on a daily basis have,” says Wes. “It has greatly changed the way I can relate to my customers, for the better. Now that I have the experience they are talking to me about, I feel I better understand both a bystander who had to perform a rescue, as well an EMS professional.”

First runs can be intimidating. Wes said his was for an elderly man with Alzheimer’s who couldn’t remember his name, his wife’s name or who was president, but “once the dog started to bark, he yelled the dog’s name and told it to be quiet. He couldn’t remember anything else important in his life but could remember the dog’s name. That was really eye opening to see, but sad.” He feels he handled it pretty well despite being nervous. “My second and third runs were both “codes,” (a code is sudden cardiac arrest where the victim is unresponsive and not breathing and is clinically dead). “Those were intense and surreal calls, to say the least.”

He was hesitant to go into detail about his most “interesting” run. When pressed he said “Any EMS call can get interesting fast when you consider the volatility of human emotions. A patient or patient’s family can be calm and understanding one moment, then explode into physical and emotional anger the next. If you factor drugs or alcohol into the equation, then it can get real interesting.” He then told the story of a patient intoxicated with an unknown substance and very, very angry. “We were able to reason and speak with the patient in a calm fashion one moment, then BOOM, the patient began to swear, spit at us, then ultimately fight us. It took six people (two EMS, two police officers, and two bystanders ) to subdue the patient into restraints. Only after that were we able to transport.”

Before coming to work for AED Superstore, Wes had worked as an outside sales rep for many years. He attributes the skills he honed in that capacity to allow him to be able to build a rapport with anyone. He had done a lot of “cold stop” sales, which taught him to converse and present ideas to total strangers. “This allows me in my EMS role to be comfortable talking with patients in their homes, and allows them to feel safe with me and trust me.”

“The best part,” says Wes, “is the appreciation you sometimes get by patients who are truly and sincerely appreciative of your being there for them. Being your best when others are at their worst, I have never had a feeling like it before.”

When asked if he would go for his Paramedic training next, Wes chuckled, “Well I would like to. That would be a lot more night school but the interest is brewing. Before that, the next level available in our area is AEMT or Advanced EMT. AEMTs are Basic Life Support care providers (like EMT-B’s) who can assist with a few more advanced treatments, as well as IV therapy.”

So, any advice for someone considering going into EMS work? “If you have an interest in it, go for it. If you find it’s not for you, then at least you did it for a while and have the experience. Even if someone does not want to do it as a career, volunteer EMS is great. You’ll learn a lot about yourself. And you’ll see how well you can work with others in highly stressful situations.”

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