Valley Voices: Celebrating International Women’s Day with women in emergency medical services
Eagle County Paramedic Services
International Women’s Day was honored for the first time in 2011 in Denmark, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A century later, March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
At Eagle County Paramedic Services, we see the gender difference in our field daily. According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, 34% of EMTs are female and only 21% of paramedics are female. In other first responder careers, approximately 12% of the national police force is female and only 4% of paid firefighters are women.
Eagle County Paramedics operates above the national average: 41% of our field staff are women; 37% of our paramedics are female; and 39% of our EMTs are female.
There are several reasons why Eagle County Paramedics attracts female employees. The first is that Eagle County Paramedic Services is a high-performance EMS system that prioritizes critical thinking and autonomy amongst its providers. That autonomy allows medical providers to perform to the best of their ability — regardless of gender. EC Paramedics also places an emphasis on the opportunity for education and promotion, whether that’s providing an opportunity for an EMT to attend paramedic school (as Kayla Telles recently completed at Swedish Hospital in Denver) or opportunities to serve as critical care paramedics, supervisors or fill-in supervisors on shifts.
But there are less prominent reasons that EC Paramedics is a work place where women can work and thrive. The ECPS stations are designed so that crews have separate quarters and bathrooms. This is critical for all field staff as everyone works a 48-hour shift but having individual bathrooms makes sharing crew quarters more comfortable for everyone. EC Paramedics has female specific uniforms — shirts and pants that are designed to fit women specifically rather than making do with men’s sizes and fits (which may not seem like a big deal, but it certainly can be). ECPS also promotes work life balance and tries to accommodate schedules for families — both moms and dads.
Fifteen years ago, I found myself wanting a career change from the corporate world; friends encouraged me to explore health care. Having heard great things about the culture and dynamic work environment at EC Paramedics (then Eagle County Ambulance District), I decided to explore the company as a part-time EMT. Within weeks of starting here I was hooked. That part-time position evolved soon after to becoming a full time paramedic and years later a critical care paramedic.
Three years ago, I found myself with the desire to be a larger part of the leadership team and moved to a shift supervisor role. As my work life has changed in the past 15 years, my personal life has as well. I am married with two children (6 and 3 years old) and have an older but surprisingly active golden retriever. Life is busy. Working an atypical schedule has both benefits and drawbacks. A 48/96-hour shift life has enabled me to spend more time home with my children, remain active in sports and have an active career in a field I am passionate about. In addition to the stress of working holidays and birthdays, my greatest challenge as a mom and woman is finding consistent childcare that works for both my rotating schedule and my husband’s more traditional (Monday-Friday) schedule.
What keeps me here is the joy I get from working with such an amazing group of paramedics and EMTs. One of my favorite and most satisfying parts of my current position is having the opportunity to mentor and support some of the incredibly intelligent, strong and successful women that have come to work here over the years. Some of my happiest moments in this past year were seeing Kayla Telles graduate paramedic school and Sam Aaronson become a critical care paramedic. I’m no longer the only female supervisor: We now have Dawn Vogeler as a supervisor and Becky Cohen as a part-time supervisor; the future is bright.
March is Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day is just one day in this month — one day in the year. And though we as a nation and as a world have a long way to go toward gender parity, I’m proud to work for an organization that supports women.
Lauren Barcza is an Eagle County Paramedic Services shift supervisor and paramedic.