Riley County EMS providing more than just a college job

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Kacie Mallon, a K-State alum with a bachelor's degree in modern languages, and Jenna Snell, senior in life sciences, pose for a picture after stocking an ambulance with school supplies. (Photo Courtesy of Kacie Mallon)

Most people prefer a certain sense of stability or monotony to their work, but for three Kansas State student EMTs working at Riley County Emergency Management Services, that is not the case.

Kacie Mallon, a K-State alum with a bachelor’s degree in modern languages, recently transitioned from part-time to full-time employment at Riley County EMS. Mallon is currently a non-degree seeking student finishing up pre-med requirements in order to apply to medical school.

“It’s completely unpredictable, and that is what is beautiful about this job,” Mallon said about the schedule she follows.

Full-time employees work 24-hour shifts almost 12 days a month, whether that is 48 hours in a row or following a rotation of 24-hour shifts every other day for eight days with four days off between sets, according to Mallon.

However, the love of the unpredictable and varied schedule seems to be a common appreciation between the three student employees.

Sammy Max, junior in life sciences and student EMT, said she appreciates the varied schedule as much as Mallon.

The hours work better with her schedule, as she can choose when to work. There are also other opportunities to work standby for athletic events, Max said.

“Overall the hours are more varied, I can work 24 hours on a Sunday or come in at 7 p.m. and work until 7 a.m. for 12 hours and hope that it is not too busy of a night so I can sleep,” Max said.

Jenna Snell, senior in life sciences, said there are some repetitive parts to the job, like station chores where mornings are spent checking in all the equipment and materials on the ambulances and trucks.

“As a student, [the schedule] is nice because if it’s not a busy day you can get a lot done,” Snell said. “Sometimes you get to sleep and sometimes you are up all night. There are two sides, but it’s a good college job.”

Mallon is currently the only full-time employee at Riley County EMS who speaks Spanish. She said she’s found it useful in more than one situation, whether editing fliers for a nonprofit program called Safe Kids, in which Riley County EMS installs and checks the installation of car seats for local families, or communicating with patients on calls.

In addition to her ability to speak Spanish, Mallon has also found her way into a public relations role. Duties are split between two full-time employees.

Social media is a big part of public relations for Riley County EMS because it helps them become more involved in the community, according to Mallon.

One part of community outreach Mallon said she is most excited about is the opportunity for Riley County EMS to offer classes in CPR. In order for this outreach to become a reality, Riley County EMS employees are becoming certified basic life support instructors.

Mallon said Riley County EMS is also trying to become more present in schools to educate children on the field. In efforts to ease the fears of young children, Riley County EMS gives kids tours of the ambulances and trucks, hopefully making them feel more comfortable if they were ever in an ambulance, she said.

As the need to educate the community becomes more prevalent with Riley County EMS, the ability to continuously educate employees is also a reoccurring theme between the three students.

“The want and need for knowledge, it’s an addiction,” Mallon said.

Some people use the job as an EMT as a stepping-stone, just as Mallon, Max and Snell are doing as they prepare for careers in the medical field — surgeon, nurse and physician assistant, respectively.

“It’s a field that is overlooked and provides a lot of experience and allows you to find your passion and move up in the chain,” Mallon said. “I’ve seen a lot of part-timers come in timid and shy; they don’t leave here that way. You can’t stay timid or shy in this type of job; you have to be open and friendly.”

As a student and younger employee, Max said the job made her grow up quickly. Max also said Riley County EMS ends up running a lot of silly calls in her opinion such as calls involving drunk college students and others who are making bad or ill-informed decisions, but she said it has taught her empathy for people.

“It continues to be a learning process,” Max said. “I’ve learned so much, how to do things and what we should do and shouldn’t do. Every call and shift is different every time — it continues the learning process.”

Mallon said the feeling of knowing you made a difference or made a positive impact on someone, whether it is consoling someone who has lost a loved one in a tragic situation, being called to a scene where a death is prevalent or delivering a patient to the hospital with excellent vital signs and knowing they’re alive, makes the job worth it.

For Max and Snell, however, they said they feed off the adrenalin.

“The job has challenged me for the better,” Snell said. “I am able to see how I react in stressful situations and learn different medical skills useful in my future career.”

At the end of the day, Riley County EMS is a big family, said Mallon. Everyone wants to help each other grow and learn.

“Coming to work makes me laugh…because of the people,” Mallon said. “They are crazy, spirited and animated; you just have to be a certain kind of crazy to do this job. We are our own breed.”

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