Balancing her personal and professional life — all during the coronavirus pandemic — has been a difficult challenge at times for Jill Street.
The 2017 CVCC honors graduate is a new mother for the first time who works as a national register paramedic for Catawba County Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Street and her husband Morgan had their first child — Charlee Ann — in February, and she immediately went on maternity leave.
“I ended up taking the full 12 weeks instead of the eight weeks I originally planned on taking off because I wanted to delay any exposure to the virus as long as possible,” Street said. “Having our baby during all of this has been super scary, but we’re making it. She’s good. She’s healthy. We’ve had to delay some of her two-month shots because of all of this. Her and I have been quarantined since the first week of February.”
When Street returned to work in the last week of April, professional life was much different than what she had been used to.
One of the biggest adjustments she’s had to make during this pandemic are new policy changes and guidelines she and her co-workers have to follow.
“We are now required to check our temperature in the mornings before we leave our houses,” she said. “We have to submit that to our EMS shift supervisor. If you’ve had a cough, fever or shortness of breath, you will not report to work. We have always cleaned the truck before each shift, but you feel like you need to dose everything with Clorox. We sanitize everything multiple times a day after every call. We have to wear a mask on every single call. If we have a patient in the back we are transporting, the driver has to wear a mask as well. We have to mask up our patients. Every person who enters the hospital during the entire duration of their stay has to have a mask on, including us and the patient.”
Street believes there are a lot of misconceptions about the EMS profession from what people see to what actually happens.
“I feel like when people look at or read about EMS, they think that all we are involved with are horrible wrecks or people dying or shootings or stabbings,” she said. “That’s what you see out in the media. You don’t see the things we do on a more daily basis. Wrecks are frequent, but all the crazy things you read are few and far between. We run a lot of basic calls. A patient could have a problem with their blood sugar or just generally aren’t well. We have some that are older people who don’t have much of a medical complaint. They are just lonely and need someone to talk to. It’s interesting. You never know what you’re going to get.”
While adjusting to the pandemic has been difficult at times, Street looks more at the positives rather than the negatives.
“It’s different and weird,” she said. “It’s a lot and overwhelming. Thankfully, no one that I know of in EMS has gotten the virus.”
When her day is over, Street starts a new battle in protecting her family from the virus, leaving her work boots outside and putting her work clothes in a trash bag and immediately washing them.
“It’s different not just only having a kid, but having a kid during this pandemic has been very stressful just because I might not have (coronavirus), but I might be a carrier of it, carry it home and give it to her,” Street said. “When I get home, I jump straight in the shower and wash off before I even get to hold her. This wasn’t anything that we thought could or would have happened. Something like this is nothing really anything any of us prepared for.”
Street is thankful for the education she received at CVCC and believes studying at the college helped prepare her greatly for all the challenges that the pandemic and her job have presented her.
“I could never say enough good things about CVCC and specifically the EMS program,” Street said. “(EMS instructors) Nimon Badgley, Kevin Lyford, Cindy Brown are essential puzzle pieces to my career as a medic today. They taught us not only to be a good medic, but to be a good person and have good morals. We were exposed to so much diversity in that program. We had hands-on experience in every department from labor and delivery to the OR. This really helped us, especially me, become such a good paramedic when it was time to go out into the streets. We were so good at the skills we learned in school that before we graduated it became muscle memory. That helps a tremendous amount when you are on the truck and have a critical patient.”
While dealing with the virus has brought out many different emotions for everyone involved, Street sees signs of hope during a time when many are hopeless.
“We have transported several of the positive patients in our county. Some of them we have transported multiple times,” she said. “That gives you some hope that coronavirus is there, but as long as you keep yourself safe, clean and protected that you are going to be OK. I hope and pray this virus goes away as quickly as it came. In the meantime, I hope everyone stays safe and washes their hands.”
As for advice for those wanting to pursue a career in EMS, Street believes there is a certain mentality you need to have in order to be successful.
“It’s definitely something for an adrenaline junkie to get into,” she said. “When you get into this job, you shouldn’t go into it with a mindset that you are going to be a hero because that’s what kills people. That gets dangerous when you have that mindset. It’s a very humbling job. It makes you realize how good you have it yourself and how you are able to take advantage of how healthy you are and are able to get up, walk around and do whatever you want.”
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