Lana Watson and Danielle Bergeron have been volunteering for the Richland County Ambulance Service for 17 years and 10 years, respectively. They each have full-time jobs.
Watson is a senior Business Office Administrator(BOA) at Edward Jones and Bergeron works at the hospital as the human resources manager. They both wanted to do more and this was a great way to get involved.
“I just saw the need for EMT’s and I wanted the knowledge of all the medical stuff for family members if I needed to use it on them,” Watson said.
Bergeron wanted the background and wanted to have the opportunity to continue to do both human resources and EMT-related stuff.
“I moved here from Glendive and I worked in the emergency room there,” Bergeron said. “When I came here, I started in human resources, so I missed the other side of it. Josh King was a very big driving force for me to take the class and I did. After that, I fell in love with it; it’s nice to be on both sides of everything.”
While Watson and Bergeron were more than willing to become volunteers, they still find it a struggle to find people who want to do this.
“It’s because our schedule is empty, we just don’t have the people that either wants to or can,” Watson said. “A lot of times, the daytime or nighttime jobs get in the way. A lot of employers are getting to where they’re so busy that they can’t afford to let their employees go.”
Bergeron feels the same way. She also conveyed people may not want to do the training, or they believe you need a background in the medical field, which is not the case.
“I feel like sometimes people think they may need a background in the medical field before they can even start and they might feel overwhelmed or intimidated by it,” Bergeron said. “It’s a commitment to go through the training, and everything is a huge time commitment.”
The training provided begins with an EMT class to start the process of becoming a volunteer.
“Within that class, you have to gain an EMT license in the state of Montana. We go with the national registry because we carry dual-licenses in Montana and North Dakota as we cross over there a lot,” Bergeron said. “But you can start in eight weeks or so depending on the pace at which the course runs. It’s 180 hours total for the class; it’s a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time.”
The training is continuous, however, and touching all bases is important in the long run for people to get more comfortable.
“Every two years, we have to have a certain number of hours in different categories,” Bergeron said. “We practice CPR a lot because we do it a lot, but we try to mix things up and make sure we’re pretty well rounded because we never know what we’re going to be faced with.”
Watson pointed out that some people have other endorsements and can give IV’s and medications if needed.
They currently have about 44 volunteers in all of Richland County, but Watson is hoping to gain at least twice that amount.
“It’s just hard because you have some people that can run a lot, but ideally, we have three people on every run, so that’s six people a day and we run 12-hour shifts,” Bergeron said. “Burnout is high, so the more the merrier, for sure.”
The shifts currently run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m to 6 a.m.
“In a perfect world, people take a week at a time, but that doesn’t always happen,” Bergeron said. “We’re looking for people to dedicate as many hours as they can to it and we understand that seven days in a row can be a lot, so we try to watch for signs of burnout in people and maybe ask them to take a step back because people push themselves until they fall and we can’t have that.”
All in all, throughout all the time commitments volunteering at the ambulance facility, the rewards that come along with it makes everything worth it.
“You see that you’re able to help someday and save a life,” Watson said.
Bergeron agreed with that sentiment.
“I would also say the EMS family, it means a lot to us,” she said. “We’re this close, we have this group of people that we may not always love each other, but we will always have each other’s back.”
The rewards they mentioned are even more reasons to volunteer, they said.
“To just be a part of something bigger than yourself,” Bergeron said. “If you’re ever wondering what you could do to get involved in your community, we do outreach; we work with schools, we’re at events in the community, it’s a good way to get to know people.
“If you have any interest in the medical field and if you’ve thought you might want to be a nurse someday, this is a great start,” she said.