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Paramedic steps down

November 08, 2000

Paramedic steps down

By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

When Donna Carey began providing emergency medical care for Community Rescue Service 28 years ago, women weren't allowed to drive the ambulances.


"We weren't even allowed to stay overnight in the CRS building between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.," Carey said.

Now 47 and recently "retired" from CRS, Carey said the field of pre-hospital medical provider has changed drastically since she and a few other young women began to integrate the service.

Back in 1972, Carey was set on becoming a medical secretary. To further that end, she entered the medical secretarial curriculum at Hagerstown Business College.

"A friend told me about CRS and so I enrolled in an emergency medical technician class," Carey said. "Pretty soon, I got the bug."


A South Hagerstown High School graduate, Carey admits that the excitement of riding on an ambulance and helping people at wreck scenes and in medical crises appealed to her.

In those days, becoming an EMT involved about 80 hours of training, while now it's 150 hours, Carey said.

She said she threw herself into the work at CRS, volunteering as much time as she could while holding down full-time employment elsewhere.

"The field was really growing in those early years," Carey said. "And CRS was coming along too."

Before long, Carey said, she and five or six other women volunteers were at the wheels of ambulances.

"We really had to fight to stay all night though," Carey recalled. "Some wives just didn't like the idea of women in the hall all night with their husbands, but we finally prevailed."

Carey was one of the first women to complete the advanced cardiac-rescue technician course to become a CRT. As such, she was qualified to start intravenous injections and perform other medical procedures.

Between 200 and 250 hours of training are now required for a CRT designation, more than double what Carey needed.

"The next step was paramedic, which required a two-year associate degree from Hagerstown Community College," Carey said.

She became one of the first women paramedics in Washington County more than 12 years ago.

Carey volunteered at CRS for 14 years, and began working there in 1986, part time at first, and then full time.

"When I went full time at CRS, I kept my other full-time job for more than a year," Carey said. "But as you get older, I found those 3 a.m. calls were getting harder."

She remembers the first baby she delivered and the four or five since then. "I always remember the children," Carey said.

She will never forget one man who was having a heart attack in a store. "We worked on him and brought him back," Carey said.

Some time later, that man went to CRS to thank them personally.

For the past eight years, Carey has worked full time at Washington County Hospital as an EMS administrative specialist, and part time at CRS, and something had to give.

As one who spent some many years with CRS, Carey recommends volunteering with the organization. "Even after all these years, I've never lost the love of ambulance calls," Carey said.

Her hospital job involves quality assurance with all ambulance companies in Washington County and she said she's proud of the standards that are maintained.

"We are doing good work out there and I'm proud of that," Carey said.

Walking through the halls of the new CRS building on Eastern Boulevard, Carey said what she will miss most is the direct patient care.

"As a paramedic, you get immediate feedback when you ease pain or save someone," Carey said. "Nothing beats that."

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