Team Profile: Cameron Mechan, Taunton EMT

Q: Describe your education and what got you into EMS as a career.

CM: I went to Bristol County Agricultural High School, aka "the Aggy.” It's very different from your average town high school. My parents tried to steer my brother and two sisters to go to the Aggie, however I'm the only one that took the bait and went. The school has multiple agriculturally-themed majors. I chose the landscape major, which focuses on landscape maintenance, landscape design and small engine mechanics. When your think of agriculture you don't really think of the northeast. People think of the midwest bread basket where they grow corn and raise cattle. However, the northeast is flourishing with agriculture activity, whether it's dairy farming or the preservation of our natural resources, along with many other things. The Aggy gave me an outlet to be hands on and actually do something instead of sitting in a classroom all day long. I'm a very hands-on person—I'm a doer—and at the Aggy, you spent anywhere between 2 to 3 hours in the classroom and the rest of the day you were always engaged in an actual activity. At the Aggy, you don't necessarily graduate with a diploma; you graduate with a skill set. It makes you more well-rounded. The school forces you out of your comfort zone and helps you discover yourself. I feel that aspect really helped me because EMS has that same effect on you—always pushing you beyond your comfort zone to learn something new. I was also fortunate enough to meet my fiancé, Caroline, at the Aggie. Her and I still connect to our Aggy roots, whether it be with her horses or my gardening.

While I was at the Aggy, a few of my friends were part of a local program called junior firefighters. It's a program for anybody from 13 to 18 years old, who can work with local area fire departments and learn what they do, including the EMS side of it. That's what really piqued my interest in EMS and medicine and how I got started. I was a part of both the Rehoboth Junior Firefighters and Dighton Junior Firefighters at different times while in high school. I graduated high school and went right into EMT school. I ended up obtaining my EMT that December in 2011.

 

Q: How did you come to work at Brewster Ambulance?

CM: I started working at EasCare in January 2012. I was with EasCare for three years and then came over to Brewster Ambulance Service. I loved the people at EasCare, and a lot of people at EasCare were going over to Brewster. I initially applied to Brewster when I got my EMT, but they weren't quite in my area all that much at the time, so it didn't work out. When I started with EasCare, they were just opening their Norton base. Things were great for a while, and then EasCare was purchased by a large Canadian company. A lot of people started leaving EasCare shortly therafter. When I wanted to leave, everyone was saying, "The grass isn't greener, don't go." Many of my coworkers had the idea that Brewster Ambulance Service, as a company, thought they were better than everyone else. Now that I am on the inside looking out, I don't think that's the reality at all. It was apparent as soon as I came here that Brewster is progressive and working really hard to change the climate of private EMS in Massachusetts.

Brewster hired me to work at the Attleboro base in January 2015. At the time, Attleboro was starting to expand. I was on a transfer truck, Ambulance 65 (A65), and stayed on A65 my entire time in Attleboro. Most of what we did was servicing Sturdy Memorial Hospital and the surrounding skilled nursing facilities. It was a really busy growth period for this base in particular due to Brewster being awarded the exclusive contract for Sturdy Memorial. Being in Attleboro was a ton of fun. I worked with some really great people.  While in Attleboro, I started to notice what made Brewster different. Our field supervisors and managers were always so approachable and helpful. You usually think of those types of positions as authoritative, and while I understand in some instances they have to be, it's nice to know that they are really there to help the field personnel. It was something I was not used to in EMS.

When the Canadian company, Medavie, took over EasCare, they didn't have that personal touch that Brewster has. I feel like everybody at Brewster feels so much more appreciated. And at Brewster, it was a huge comfort knowing that every day when I would come in to work I would be with the same partner, on the same truck and using the same equipment. It made me feel really grounded. Everything had its place. I didn't have to worry about any surprises to do my job, which was a nice change from how things were with the Medavie-managed EasCare.

 

Q: When you get your initial EMT certification, how does it work?

CM: There are essentially four levels of EMS provider: First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Advanced and EMT-Paramedic. All levels of training include some level of anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and emergency interventions. Obviously, the further training you get, the more in-depth these topics become. You can get your first responder in a weekend or two, while most paramedic programs can take more than a year to complete. Depending on the program, you will do both in-class and in-field training. In the classroom you have a lot of lectures and hands-on scenarios. When you get to your field training, you get to apply what you have learned in class in hospitals and inside an actual ambulance, which may be simply observing or taking vitals for a basic student all the way up to intubating patients at the medic level of training. After you pass the classroom and in-field tests, you have to take your national test for whatever level you are going for. The national test has both a hands-on and written portions. As a brand new student, no matter what the level, EMS school can be as overwhelming and scary as some parts of EMS can be. But it all pays off in the end. In EMS though, you really never stop learning, and you never should. Medicine is always changing and as EMS providers we have to be a part of that change to be the best practitioners we can be.

 

Q: Describe the types of patient experiences that have impacted you the most.

CM: Taunton, not unlike many other of our cities, has a problem with the opioid epidemic. I feel like addiction has a stigma around it, where people think, "Oh, they're just junkies. You're not going to be able to do anything for them." Being in EMS, we're the first responders on those calls. I try to talk with them and their families about their options, and say, "This isn't the end of the world, there's hope for you." Bad things happen to good people, and I want to be that empathetic voice for them. Massachusetts is a hotbed for addiction for one reason or another and it's really sad. Morton Hospital is the main receiving hospital for us in Taunton. Morton works with their own crisis team as well as the Taunton Opiate and Substance Use Task Force to try and get these people the help they need.

One thing about people is that you can't change them, but you can help people want to change themselves. I feel like eighty percent of what we do to help all of our patients is talking to them. We're therapists in a way, providing comfort and ease to people in addition as well as treating them medically. We have people crying on the back of the truck telling us about their problems. We talk to them and try to make them feel better. Especially on the BLS truck. We go on a lot of psyche calls, and they often stem from drugs. That's what is profound for me about the work. What interests me is what led them to that and how can I help them. How can I—as an EMS professional, only being with them for 30 minutes or less—be the voice of reason to make them want to change themselves and make them feel that the needle, or snorting, or pills, is not their only option. People aren't born that way. Something gets them to that point, and even though I'm with them for just a short amount of time, I want to help impart some sort of clarity and tell them that they can get help.

 

Q: What are your thoughts on the EMS industry and how EMS professionals have a tendency to jump companies?

CM: You see these people who jump around different companies, and then they come to Brewster and think it's for the short term for one reason or another. They may start out with that mentality, but that changes once they get here and see what it's really like, especially with experienced people. You hear a lot about the "good 'ole days" of EMS. I wasn't around back then, but you get the impression from the experienced providers that Brewster's like a throwback. You have a family-owned company focused on this regional market and they put all their effort into it, and you really feel that. It makes you want to do more. It's exciting. A lot of people talk about the growth, and say, "Oh we're growing too fast, and how can we handle it?" but I feel like at Brewster, you see a lot of those people embrace it and I feel like you don't see that at other companies. It's almost electric. You see the excitement.

People are happy to come to work. You need the call volume to make money in this industry, and those calls—that's your paycheck. Here, people realize that and they are excited about doing the calls. The Brewsters set up the atmosphere to make everybody feel happy and excited to come to work. They take good care of us. They provide us with good equipment. They provide us with great training opportunities like the new CMTI acquisition and the discounts we get with CMTI. They provide us with what we need to do our jobs—not just the bare minimum, and with great coworkers, a great management team and great software to do our jobs. They continue to upgrade and invest in almost every aspect of the company. That helps everybody really stay connected with the company and embrace the growth and not just, "Oh my, we're growing again, how are we going to do all this?" I don’t think people want to work for a company that's stagnant and not going anywhere. People want the opportunity to succeed and advance, and Brewster Ambulance provides that.

 

Q: What do you enjoy about working with your Taunton team? 

CM: In Taunton, it's a good mix of those from AMR who had the contract prior to Brewster, and the other half who are made up of Brewster employees. I feel like they did that on purpose to have the experience of Taunton stay in Taunton, but to have the Brewster team help the AMR people learn more about how Brewster performs as a team. These are some of the greatest EMS practitioners on all levels—basic, advanced and paramedic—I've ever seen. Some of these medics and EMTs are so knowledgeable, and me, being an EMT for only five years—I'm still a baby in this industry. I hopefully have a long career ahead of me. The people in Taunton are so approachable; every call I go on, I learn something new. Like for a small, almost embarrassing example, we use airway adjuncts called an NPA’s, which is a nasopharyngeal airway I learned that there's an "old school" term for it called a nasal trumpet. Somebody asked me on an overdose call, "Hey, grab me a nasal trumpet," and I said, "What? You mean an NPA?" and they said, "Yes." Even more importantly than those little things, my coworkers have really taught me how to be a better EMT, whether directly or indirectly by what I am taught or by what I see. I guess you could even say they have made me a better person after all the different experiences we share together.

We have such a great, diverse group of people from all different types of backgrounds and experiences and everybody kind of rubs off on each other. It's great because it makes everybody more well rounded in this job. If you just stay in that tunnel vision and one-track mind, it doesn't help you at all. You need to branch out and experience different things and working with this group of people you really get that. We're all family it seems like. I spend almost as much time with these people as I do with my fiancé and my own family. We all refer to each other as the Taunton family. We have celebrations for each other, we do breakfasts or dinners and different people cook for each other. It's constant and it's a great environment to work in. It's not like going to work, it's like going to my second home. I think the nature of EMS work has that effect on people, we all share a special bond having the privilege to get a look into complete strangers lives, in their best and worst moments of life and death. It really brings us, as providers, together.

 

Q: What do you see for the future of your career in EMS?

CM: Right now, if you were to ask me what I would want to do, well, I love working in Taunton. I love the city. I'd love to get my paramedic certification and continue working in Taunton. The future for me, because the company is growing so much and I love to work with people—I love to talk with people—I think of myself as a people person and I'd love to get a management position of some type or a field supervisor position down the line and be able to help other employees do their job every day and try to make it better. But if it were offered me today, I'd probably say no because I love working out in the field and going on calls. If you ask anybody in Taunton, I'm the first one running to the truck because I love it so much. My partner, who's a twenty-year EMS veteran, sometimes gives me grief about it, but he also admits he likes it because my energy rubs off on him during calls.

 

Q: What do you do outside of work, regarding your family and other personal interests?

CM: My fiancé, Caroline, and I have been together over eight years now. We met and started dating at the Aggy my sophomore year. We just got engaged a few months ago, and we're in the middle of planning our wedding and picking the venue for next June. She's my best friend and who I spend most of my free time with. We got a puppy this past January, and we're training him to be a therapy dog. My fiancé is an RN at Cohannet Academy, which is at Taunton State Hospital, and she works with adolescent girls, ages 13 to 18 providing them in-house services and treatment. They have a therapy dog, but he's getting old. We were going to be getting a dog anyway, and they suggested putting him in therapy dog training, so we're in the process of doing that right now. His name is Walter, and he's a Basset hound. He's the best dog and pretty much goes everywhere with us. He's going to be going to work with Caroline and is being trained to be a calming presence. Most of his training is just exposing him to anything and everything possible, that way he will remain calm in any situation. I'm going to be certified as a handler for him as well as Caroline. I would have no qualms about using him as a therapy dog for Brewster as well if they would be open to it. I'm sure a lot of our nursing home and hospital contracts would love that added service. Outside of Caroline and the pup, I would like to think of myself as a firearms enthusiast. I love to skeet shoot. Also, I would love to start collecting WW2 period firearms, in addition to the modern ones I already own.

 

Q: There are a lot of great people who work at Brewster, what are your thoughts on why it works for you?

CM: It's really great here. A lot of it comes from within. If you have a positive outlook on things, it makes things a lot better. And the Brewsters have a positive outlook on everything. They are very people-focused and their level of care for their people is evident in everything they do.