For National Public Health Week (April 3-7th), we’re celebrating by featuring unsung public health heroes who make our communities safer and healthier. Each day, we’ll highlight a public health worker through their own words, sharing their work and why they’re committed to serving our community.
Today, we’re talking with Tony Smith, a paramedic with King County Medic One, which provides paramedic services for south King County and Vashon/Maury Islands. King County Medic One is part of larger King County system made up of thousands of paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), doctors, nurses, dispatchers, analysts, researchers and other professional and support staff who make up one of the most respected emergency response systems on the planet.
How and why did you get started working in public health?
I became interested in emergency medical response going back to when I started in the medical field. I was a certified nursing assistant working in a skilled nursing facility, and received encouragement to pursue a nursing degree.
I was moving toward that path, but then had a chance encounter with a Shepard Ambulance crew at a facility where I was working. I was assisting the crew with a patient and they complimented me on my patient care skills and suggested that I apply with them. So I did, and they hired me, first in their Cabulance program, then I received training to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
Working as an EMT, I was in frequent contact with local paramedics, and seeing their work inspired me to become one as well.
What does your day to day work for Public Health look like?
I believe that my coworkers at King County Medic One and I have one of the most unique Public Health jobs. My day starts out basic enough: I check in with the previous crew about their shift, find out if there were issues with our equipment, and then perform my/our own daily vehicle and equipment check.
Then, from the first time the pager alerts your crew to a response, you never know where the day may take you. It could be a cardiac arrest, serious motor vehicle accident, assault with a deadly weapon, major medical illness, or child birth — just to name several things that can happen within a 24 hour shift.
What is new in your field/your work or has recently changed?
King County Medic One recently consolidated the paramedic program on Vashon/Maury Islands into our program. Now we have a new challenge of working on an island and transporting patients to definitive care on the mainland.
What is most challenging about your work?
The emotional, mental and physical aspects of working in this career for many years is a significant challenge. We work 24-hour shifts to serve people in need anytime, day or night. Over a lengthy career, we will serve people many times at the lowest points of their lives, such as losing a loved one or someone close.
What makes you proud to work for Public Health?
All of my work makes me proud to serve our community. The paramedics of King County Medic One are there when people have some of the greatest challenges in their lives.
This is more than just a paycheck for me. It’s a calling to care for the community that we live in. This is why I do it!
Interested in a career as a King County Medic One paramedic? Read more to learn what it takes.
Originally posted April 7, 2017.