A Nurse’s Journey in EMS

At Covalent Health, we celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing the efforts and achievements of the phenomenal women that work in Emergency Medical Services. Recently we sat down with our own Critical Care Nurse Manager Kathryn Pish BSN, RN, MICN, at ProTransport-1 and asked her to tell us about her experience and journey in EMS. We hope you enjoy!

Covalent Health: Hi Kathryn. Ok easy questions first! How many years have you worked in EMS?

Kathryn: Seven including my time at ProTransport-1 in the field. However, I have taught CPR for about 30 years as far as BLS. I also have taught ACLS and PALS since 2016. Altogether I’d say I have been involved in working with people in the EMS industry for about 30 years.

You’ve had many different jobs throughout your career. From Taco Bell to Veterinarian Tech, Banking, CPR Instructor, Author, Business Owner, Intensive Care Unit RN, Emergency Department RN, and now CCT RN Manager. Is there any one job that you would look at and say that you learned the most from?

It’s so difficult to pick one job and say that I learned the most from it because I really feel like I have learned so much from every job I’ve had over the years. Each job gave me the skills and knowledge to build on and get me to where I am today. I had to be ready to learn, willing to adapt, and stand up for what I believe as a human being in order to be the best at each job I’ve held over my lifetime. While raising my children, I decided that I wanted a career where I could help people. I decided to go to nursing school because I knew I could become a CCT RN if I followed the right path in my nursing career.

Not everyone decides to make a career in EMS, many people move into other aspects of healthcare. How did you get started in EMS?

My husband was on his last tour overseas in the Navy. At the time I was working in banking and living down in San Diego, we decided to move back to our hometown of Merced where I stumbled across EMS by accident. I married my high school sweetheart right after I graduated and had not attended college yet, but my father was a veterinarian, so I always had a love for medicine. I saw an ad in the paper for a public relations representative at a local ambulance company, so I applied and got the job. Next, they sent me through the EMT program at Merced College. After my first day on an ambulance, I was hooked. I absolutely love EMS, and the only reason I left is because my husband and I decided to start a family and I wanted to be home to raise my children. I did continue to teach CPR at Merced College and stay involved in some form of EMS though.

Kathryn after getting off a 48 hour shift at just 23 years old working 911 in Merced, CA.

I know exactly what you mean. Many of us in EMS kind of fell into it by chance and then fell in love with it, including myself. What is it about working in EMS that you love?

EMS is an amazing place to make a real difference either in frontline emergency or non-emergent care. I love the dedication of the people that work in EMS. We are all one team with a desire to make a difference in our patients’ lives. I enjoy the close ties we have with each other and working through challenges to get patients where they need to go. In my role as Critical Care Transport Nurse Manager, I love working with other nurses and advocating for them to be the best they can be in all that they do. I genuinely care about every single Nurse who works here as well as all our amazing Medics, EMTS, and other support staff at PT-1. EMS is an extremely rewarding career. Hands down, this is the best role that I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of.

Is there any one thing that you consider to be your greatest achievement in EMS?

There are many great things I’ve achieved in EMS. As far as the greatest one, being able to navigate and build a wonderful CCT RN team during the pandemic has been my greatest one. I am a believer that a company is only as successful as the people it employs. We have such a wonderful team here at PT-1 and I am very thankful for each and every nurse and crew member here. The success in my role depends on my team, and without them, I am not going to be successful in my role. My team is at the heart of everything I do here. COVID-19 has been exceedingly difficult to navigate, and despite what was thrown at us, we were able to achieve something amazing here at PT-1. As in anything, there are still things that need improvement, but if you give your all and put your heart into what you do, I think you can achieve remarkable things.

I’m glad that you mentioned COVID-19. The past couple years have been challenging for first responders. What has been the biggest challenge in your opinion and how did you overcome it?

First responders are a tight knit group. We operate with a lot of teamwork and are heavy on camaraderie. COVID-19 changed the landscape of EMS and especially how we gather. Many things like communication, meetings, and trainings have now gone remote with apps like Zoom. For me personally, building a strong CCT Team during COVID has been challenging to say the least. Two weeks after I was promoted to manage the division, our state went into lockdown because of COVID. I had to be a self-starter. I did have experience in managing as well as running a business for 30 years, but I had never managed nurses before. The first thing I needed to do was assess the condition of our division and make some difficult decisions to build the best team possible, all of this while on lockdown. It was exceedingly difficult, but I overcame the obstacles and found an amazing team of Registered Nurses. Through phone interviews, Zoom interviews, and remote meetings, I had to make hiring decisions that were different from how I had managed in the past. I just kept pushing through despite all the obstacles that were thrown at me along the way.

Since taking over the CCT Division at PT-1, Kathryn has been hands on in obtaining new equipment and implementing systems to make things better for our Nurses.

Thinking about Women’s History Month, are there any women role models in your life who gave you the inspiration to get where you are today?

Absolutely! My mother, aunt and grandmother were all significant role models for me to learn from. Each of them possessed great qualities and I always looked up to them. They were dedicated to their families as well as their work and always strived to be the best in everything that they set out to do.

What advice can you offer someone that’s looking to start a career in EMS or Healthcare?

I would say that if you are thinking about a career in EMS, take the time to do a ride along in an ambulance to see if this is an environment you would enjoy working in. EMS is not for everyone, there are things you will be a part of and patient care situations you cannot unsee. But there is a profound sense of purpose for those who develop careers in EMS. If EMS is for you, there are lots of opportunities for career advancement. It’s a rewarding job and if you have a passion to care for the sick and injured, then this may be the right path for you!

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