EMT Story: Sarah Nielsen

Sarah Nielsen’s first glimpse of her future happened in an Oregon high school health class, where students were taught the basics of CPR and first aid.

“I had no idea what it took, in reality, to save a life. I was intrigued that I could use those skills and that I might exist in the world to potentially help save a life,” says Sarah.

After some time in college, Sarah moved to Seattle to train and work as a phlebotomist at Bloodworks and Fred Hutch Cancer Center. She felt inspired by the people she met there. “During blood draw visits, I listened to the lives of community members and first responders,” says Sarah. “My desire to serve the greater Seattle community stems from the meaningful discussions I have had with Seattle’s firefighters, paramedics, and nurses I’ve met through my work. I want to provide aid and support to my community.”

For Sarah, moving toward emergency medical services (EMS) felt like a natural progression. “EMTtraining would open a door; I would gain more skills. I would learn how to help save lives.” That door opened for her at North Seattle College with help from a Medic One Foundation EMT Scholarship.

“Without a doubt, without the scholarship,” says Sarah, “I would not have been able to attend North Seattle College. It was amazing how everything fell into place for me to go there, and I am so grateful that it did.”

Her EMT class schedule was packed with new information. Sarah started her day at 7:45 a.m. with an energy boost of black coffee from a vending machine and a cookie, a fond memory for her. “It was like, let’s go! Let’s do some EMT work!”

During training, student teams worked together and supported each other. The instructors, she says, were amazing. “I absolutely loved it!” says Sarah. “I loved the whole experience.”

There were some challenges during the training. The first half of the course, trauma, involved hands-on, rote learning of physical tasks. “I remember the cervical collar being tricky; I also remember people being concerned about putting tape on someone’s eyebrows,” says Sarah.

The program’s second half involved medical training, including physiological and anatomical systems and how to make medical assessments for each patient. It was a rapid transition to critical thinking that was difficult for some students. For herself, says Sarah, “My college experience helped a lot. I like to know the why and the how, like why this patient would present this way.”

Sarah says the instructors did a great job of ensuring students were supported. “I felt very confident coming out of the class. It’s like they wanted to get to know you personally and cheer you on, and give you their knowledge.”

Next year, Sarah will apply to become a firefighter/EMT. She also has another goal: “I hope one day to become a North Seattle College EMT instructor myself. I want to be a part of this.”

To the donors who make scholarships possible for her and others, Sarah feels immense gratitude. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you! Your generosity allowed me an opportunity I would not otherwise have had. I think that giving people a chance who otherwise couldn’t afford to go—is very, very important. I believe it creates diversity in our first responders and EMTs, and that makes us a better reflection of the communities that EMS serves. It can be life-changing for all of us.”

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to PNC Bank for generously providing five scholarships for the 2023/24 school year. To find out how you can support the EMT program, visit mediconefoundation.org/emt