In our Q&A with Sarah Wilson ’22, Master of Communication and Media student and full-time Emergency Medical Technician, she tells the readers how she directly applies what she is learning in the MCM program to her career – and how the skills she’s gained so far were particularly helpful to her during the 72-hour period she worked as an EMT when Hurricane Ida’s remnants hit New Jersey.
Wilson also describes her future career goals, explaining, “I absolutely love the healthcare field, but I learned early on in life that being on the frontlines is not my intended career. However, with my extensive knowledge of the field and passion for healthcare, I am pursuing a career in healthcare/BioPharma communications. I had the great opportunity of being a Corporate Reputation Intern at Bristol Myers Squibb this past summer, which further advanced my passion for healthcare communications. I will still continue to volunteer as an EMT for as long as I can.”
How do you apply the skills you learned in class to your job as an EMT?
As an Emergency Medical Technician, people often assume that I am pursuing a career in medicine. When I tell individuals that I am actually a master’s student pursuing my MCM, there is often a lot of confusion on why I spend so much of my time as a healthcare professional when that is not my intended career path. I am currently the Vice President of both the Watchung Rescue Squad and the Warren Township Rescue Squad, where I facilitate internal and external communication as well as developing strategic planning initiatives. My academic career in mass communications has prepared me to succeed as both an EMT and as a Vice President. Some of my tasks include leading meetings, sending out newsletters, writing press releases, managing social media channels, negotiating with the town council, and setting strategic goals for my agencies as well as implementing and executing objectives to achieve those same goals. All of these skills I have been able to fine-tune within my academic endeavors, making me the leader and team member that I am today.
How do you apply the skills you learned in class to your everyday life?
The skills that I learn in class transfer beyond my profession into my everyday life. I think specifically about setting goals and objectives for myself. I like to make goals for my career and create SMART objectives that help me achieve these goals. That’s something that you learn in a public relations course but has really guided my planning for my own career. I also have learned a lot about negotiation, corporate relationships, and how to be a more effective communicator. These skills aren’t something that you can prove your knowledge of on paper, but have made me a better employee, leader, and even citizen.
What interested you in becoming an EMT?
My wonderful mother had a passion for giving back to our community and became an EMT late in life. I grew up watching her “save the world!” In 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, our house flooded and lost power, like many others in our community. Rather than seeking shelter, my mom decided it was best to use this time to ensure that Watchung was taken care of. She packed up me and my younger brother, brought us to the rescue squad, and made a game-plan of how to help the town. When she wasn’t responding to 911 calls, she drove around town delivering oxygen tanks and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to individuals that needed them most. I was lucky to accompany her on these deliveries, seeing how great her impact was in our small town. During this time of panic, she selflessly went above and beyond to ensure that Watchung was taken care of, which not only secured her spot as the #1 mom, but also inspired me to one day be an Emergency Medical Technician myself.
Does your job and school course load ever get hard to balance?
It absolutely gets hard to balance. I currently work anywhere from 36-60 hours per week trying to pay my bills, in addition to volunteering another 24-36 hours a week. This is in addition to taking 12 credit hours as a graduate student. Working as an EMT during a pandemic as well as the flooding during hurricane Ida, the job can get extremely demanding at times. When I am working at the Rescue Squad, there is occasionally down-time between calls which is where I get most of my schoolwork done. I am extremely fortunate that the faculty at Rutgers has been supportive and patient, always willing to work with me if I ever feel overwhelmed.
Why did you join the MCM program and how has it changed your knowledge since?
I graduated a year early from the University of South Carolina and wasn’t 100% sure what career path I wanted to take. Undergrad gave me a general knowledge of the communications and public relations industry, but there is an extreme learning curve going from academia to the corporate setting. I’ve noticed that my graduate studies have helped at flattening this learning curve, further preparing me for the workforce and giving me practical experience that strengthens my qualifications as a job applicant. With the continued support of this faculty, I am confident in my skills as a professional and am excited to see what the future holds for me.
What happened to you the night Hurricane Ida hit New Jersey? Did you rescue anyone?
So I was actually walking back from Dr. Dool’s 6 p.m. class - that got cut short at 7:30 due to the weather - and by the time I had gotten back from my apartment I had about ten missed calls from my coworkers and supervisors asking if there was any way that I can get back to Watchung, Warren, or Clark. I hopped in my car as quickly as I could and drove back to Watchung, dodging severe areas of flooding as I commenced on my 30-minute commute back home. By the time I got home, the Watchung Lake was overflowing into the street, resembling the flooding patterns of Hurricane Irene in 2007. Cars were getting trapped, generators were exploding, and people that relied on power for their medical needs were stuck. I spent the next approximately 72 hours traveling between Watchung, Warren, and Clark just to provide manpower to whomever needed it most. This included transporting patients to the hospital, working alongside the fire departments in evacuations, and being on stand-by for many of the houses that either collapsed or exploded. I am lucky enough to be working with my mother and some of my best friends, which made being awake for 72 hours much more enjoyable.
Have you learned skills/knowledge in your conflict management course or other MCM courses that you applied to your job that night during Hurricane Ida? What specific skills/knowledge?
I definitely had to conjure up patience during this elongated endeavor. When you're working alongside a few dozen sleep deprived individuals, tensions rise and sometimes decision-making skills are compromised. However, I learned a lot about how to work alongside some conflicting personalities in order to provide the best outcomes for my patients and the situations that we encountered. A lot of what we had to do was strictly quick thinking and crisis management. Being a 21-year old female, it's not easy being taken seriously in any field, let alone emergency management. However, my professionalism and critical thinking skills that I have fine-tuned through the MCM program aided in me being a strong leader in this time of need.