Every Day Emergency Heroes

Lives changed in a split second, an ever-changing, unpredictable environment and rock-solid mental, physical and emotional resilience. If you’ve ever wonder what it’s like being a trauma nurse or paramedic, meet Stacey and Kelli.

A career in caring

Kelli Morgan has spent 14 years as an EMS provider and two years as a paramedic with Sharpsburg Area EMS. The paramedics who cared for her ailing mother made such an impact on Kelli that she became a paramedic as a tribute to her late mother. “As a paramedic, you’re trained not to make it personal,” says Kelli. “But when I talk to family members, I remember what it’s like being on the other side of a call.”

Stacey Gibson, RN, with Meritus Medical Center’s trauma services is an 11-year nursing veteran and soon-to-be nurse practitioner. She likes caring for patients of all ages and the immediate gratification of stabilizing patients. “Trauma and ER nursing offer a constant challenge where I’m always looking and thinking outside of my comfort zone,” says Stacey.

A window into their world

A mobile home, apartment, estate or a remote hiking trail, EMS personnel never know what type of environment they will encounter. Sharpsburg Area EMS’ calls are varied and can include: gunshot wounds, drug overdoses, farming accidents, vehicular accidents and incidents along the C&O canal or historic Antietam battlefield.

“We can also encounter very distraught or angry family members,” says Kelli. In the emergency department, Stacey faces conflicts with patients or family members especially when caring for pediatric and overdose cases. “In these situations, the most important objective is to focus on the patient and what’s best for them,” says Stacey.

From minor lacerations and sprains to amputations, gunshot or stab wounds, burns and falls, Meritus Medical Center’s trauma personnel handle a multitude of injuries. “We rely on a sixth sense which many experienced nurses develop throughout years of experience,” says Stacey.

Both professions require providers to care for patients with little-to-no medical information. “You learn to ask the right questions,” says Kelli. She starts by asking patients which medication they’re taking.

“I truly love what I do because I’m fulfilling a life-long dream,” says Kelli. “But you shouldn’t go into EMS lightly, otherwise you won’t stay for long.”

Built tough

The ability to adapt and shift gears in a moment’s notice, strong assessment, prioritization and assertiveness skills are just some of the qualities of a trauma nurse. “You have to think outside the box and remain calm and productive during evolving, stressful and chaotic situations,” says Stacey.

To be a paramedic, you must possess investigative and methodical reasoning skills. “You need to look around the scene to determine the cause of injury or illness,” says Kelli. “I’m constantly thinking about what just happened and what could happen.”

On the way to a call, Kelli also thinks about what lies ahead. “I think about the treatment I need to give and the environment I might be entering. I put on my game face and go into work mode.”

The highs and lows

A good day for Stacey is when everyone works well together to achieve the common goal of providing safe, appropriate care to patients—and sometimes it’s also when everyone gets meal and bathroom breaks. “But to witness a miracle before our eyes, knowing that we played a large and successful role in stabilization or recovery of a critically ill patient, that’s the ultimate achievement,” says Stacey.

But there is also defeat. “When I have to tell mom, dad, husband, wife or a child that I’ve exhausted all of my resources and there’s nothing else I could have done, that’s a very tough day,” says Kelli.

Empathy and perspective

Stacey admits there are times when she becomes numb to what she experiences on the job, but the hardships she witnesses inspire her to do more. “So many patients have left an undeniable impact on my life,” says Stacey. “To care for them and witness their struggle and heartbreak, it sparks a reality check and new perspective to life itself.”

Health care providers in the trauma and emergency fields experience stress, chaos and the frailty of life, but they approach each day with compassion, hope and inward desire to do one’s best. In May, we celebrate Nurses Week and Trauma Awareness Month. Hopefully, you’ll never meet Stacey or Kelli, but if you do—you’re in good hands.