Becoming an EMT Shaped Her Career. Now She Helps Others Find Their Paths.
Meet South Branch Emergency Services Training Lieutenant/Training Center Coordinator Michelle Gardner
As South Branch Emergency Services Training Center Coordinator, Michelle Gardner makes sure that future EMTs have the skills they need to save lives. As an active EMT herself, she sees Training Center graduates using what they have leaned to help others in many different ways.
“I see EMTs from agencies across the county, some of whom are now training officers, as well as ER nurses who have gone through our programs,” she said. “I also know several of our grads who are pursuing careers as paramedics or physician assistants. EMT class is often a first step for so many medical careers, and it’s so neat to see them all out in the field, or to get feedback that someone we trained is doing a great job.”
It’s a great feeling to know that her work at SBES has not only shaped the care received by people who live, visit, or travel through the communities SBES serves, but the care provided by other EMS entities and in the county’s hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.
Michelle is among those whose career began with EMT certification. She earned hers in 2002, after joining the Mansfield squad as a volunteer. She was then providing in-home childcare while caring for the three children she then had at home. By the time her kids needed less care, she was hooked on emergency medicine. Michelle first worked for a transport company. She became an instructor and joined Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad -one of the SBES founding organizations – in 2005.
Michelle was Clinton’s training officer when she and other squad leaders decided to do something about the lack of EMS training and certification programs within Hunterdon County. “We wanted a quality education program so we could have people go through and be ready to ride on an ambulance and be a contributing member for their agency,” she said. The best way to make sure the kind of training they wanted was available locally was to offer it themselves. The training center opened in 2015.
Michelle teaches, schedules all courses, and runs the training center. She loves that she’s also still a hands-on EMT. “To me, it’s really important to keep riding the ambulance,” she said. “It makes me a better instructor to understand what students are going through and to know the things I’m training them in because I’m actually doing them.”
EMTs are in a unique position among health care providers, Michelle tells her students. “We are the ones who go into people’s homes, so we see things that the hospital staff doesn’t always see,” she said.
They may discover there is no food or medicine in a home, that the living conditions are not good, or that someone lives alone at doesn’t have the help they need, she said. “When we go to the hospital, we let nursing staff know of any problems we found. And we also ourselves connect people to agencies to provide the resources we need.”
Michelle knows that no medical professional who has ever earned EMT certification through SBES will forget how much EMTs learn about their patients. She thinks this makes them more inclined to seek the valuable guidance from the responding EMTs. “People who go into these jobs have this in the back of their mind, and that helps make them better at what they do,” she said.
When she’s not helping patients or teaching others how to do so, Michelle, 58, enjoys spending time with her four adult children and grandchild and camping with her wife, Pat, and dogs Herbie and Bandit.