For Elyse Holter, it was observant advice from a mentor that led her to her current position in emergency medical services.
The 28-year-old Laflin resident has been employed in EMS since 2015, working first as an emergency medical technician in the Commonwealth Health System and, more recently, as a paramedic at Pennsylvania Ambulance in Scranton.
But before Holter was serving her community in its most urgent moments, she held a clerical job at Geisinger’s Community Medical Center in Scranton and was searching for her place along the spectrum of medical professions.
“I worked at CMC for five years and had, more or less, a desk job there as their patient logistics coordinator,” Holter said. “I was always so quick to run with the nursing supervisor to see more exciting calls in the hospital. I had just signed up for the nursing program at (Luzerne County Community College), and the supervisor said, ‘I think you’d be better off working in the field. You have that kind of personality, type A. You want to take control.’”
So Holter enrolled in and completed her EMT class and followed up by becoming a certified paramedic.
“An EMT works in advanced first aid, splinting techniques, basic use of oxygen and how to assist a paramedic in more invasive procedures, like administering an IV, cardiac monitoring and medication,” Holter said. “You have to learn to crawl before you walk.”
Holter said the often-intense work brings her gratification.
“I think the most fulfilling (calls) are the cardiac arrests I’ve had success with, bringing back pulses,” Holter said. “They are now home and well and given a second chance at life.”
Other scenarios, she said, can be eye-opening.
“I’m knocking on the door of 30 and thinking about having kids, and I had a woman who was in labor at 25 weeks and she was breach,” Holter said. “It was her third child and she was very aware of the possible outcome, but that was the first time I delivered a baby that was non-sustainable. It touches you on a personal level.”
Recently, Holter was awarded a certificate for her involvement in treating a woman who was having a heart attack.
“She walked a card to the ambulance building, thanking everyone that helped her and saved her life,” Holter said of the recovered and grateful patient.
And beyond helping individuals, Holter has experienced larger-scale emergencies that affect a group of people or a whole community.
“As far as mass casualty situations, like every other job, there’s drama; everybody is in everybody else’s business, but when there’s a big event, all of that gets pushed aside,” Holter said. “It doens’t matter if I hate you and you hate me; we all get along. The job, to be honest, doesn’t pay well. You do it because you love the job. It’s in your nature to help people. We’re always ready.”