How did you get started in EMS?
SD: I had a friend who was working for Brewster Ambulance Service as a dispatcher back in 1993, which is when the original Brewster Ambulance was in operation. At that time I was a cook supervisor for Marriott food services. I worked different colleges and factories that had cafeterias, and I also worked at the Providence Marriott. I went to a vocational high school and I did food service for many years. It was just one of those things where the long hours got to me, so that buddy of mine who was working for Brewster at the time, he said, "Come over," and I said, "I'm not an EMT," and he said, "No problem, you can start as a chair car driver."
Back then it was Lorna, Danny, George Brewster Sr., and George's brother, Joey, who was a supervisor. I met Mark and I worked as a chair car driver for a while and got the EMS bug. I went on to EMT school with Safety Program Consultants. I took my EMT course there and in the summer of '94 I got my EMT license. My first shift was a detail at Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk. I manned the ambulance on the track and waited for an accident to happen. It was one of those experiences where it was baptism by fire on the racetrack. It's not that the cars were going that fast—they ran top speed at about 80 MPH because it was just a 1/4-mile track—but it didn't take considerable speed to have a problem if you were going into a concrete wall. That was a great starting assignment because I live in the Attleboro area. It's been my home and I've had my shifts in that area.
In '97 when George Sr. decided to sell the company to AMR/MedTrans, I stayed on and became a field training officer with them. I did some teaching, some CPR training, and I was doing 24-hour shifts. I worked on an ALS truck and got a lot of experience. There were a whole bunch of great people over there.
When Mark and George opened the company back up in 2010, they reached out to me because they were looking for experienced folks to start the company. Because of timing and other things, it didn't work out initially, but I loved that they reached out to me and had kept me in mind. I told them that when things were better situated, that I always wanted to come back. I loved the Brewster family. They were great to me for that short period of time before they sold the company. I loved the family atmosphere they created. George Sr. could walk around and there were 550, 600 folks back then, and he knew everyone and stuff about them like where they were from, and he'd ask about their family like, "How's your wife, or so and so." I loved that atmosphere. It was great that they remembered me and asked me to come back.
In 2012, Mark reached out to me again and said, "I think we can make this happen now. We're in a better position, we're ready." That was the time when he was opening the Dartmouth and Attleboro locations, and he offered me to come on as being knowledgable in the area, to help out the new employees in Attleboro and have someone to lean on and answer any questions. That was prior to me being the base supervisor for that location.
At the end of 2014, Mark asked if I was interested in being a field supervisor. It was perfect for me because I love to help people and get out there and share about the Brewster approach, policies and procedures. I'm out there spreading the word, providing help to anyone who needs assistance. I've assisted many crews on calls if they need an extra hand or a driver or a lift assist for a heavier patient. I really enjoy being out there giving the support they need.
What do you admire most about the team you work with?
SD: That they all love what they do, they love being here, they love that we're supportive of them and want to make sure we succeed. They want to succeed with us.
What do think about Brewster Ambulance Service compared to other companies?
SD: We're just more personable. When it's said that any supervisor or manager can be reached at any time, that we're available to talk anytime—on the EMS side or even if it's a personal issue—that we are there for them, it's true. In a big or public corporation, you're a number, you're an employee. At Brewster Ambulance, it's a real team atmosphere. We're all together to make each other succeed. But on the larger corporate scale, it's just a job and you're making money for someone else. At Brewster, it's more of a, "We're all in this together, it's all or nothing" type of team feel.
At Brewster, we're all in this together and trying to make patient care better. All of the equipment that Mark makes sure we have, and that they are making investments to assure we have the best of what we need to do the job. We want to make the patients feel as comfortable as we are with our company. We're just more caring. Our main goal is patient care, not the bottom line. The Brewsters are responsive to our team and to the patients. They are all about patient care and making sure the crews have the right equipment so they can do their job better and easier.
How do you get informed when new equipment or improved clinical procedures are introduced?
SD: Chris DiBona (Director of Clinical Quality at Brewster Ambulance) puts out a notice and reaches out to the field supervisor's role call training or he'll meet up with a crew and let them know this is what's new and what's coming out. For example, he'll walk them through setting up the Narcan™ with the syringe and atomizer and show them how to put it together and the proper use. Chris will put out a notice and do some face time and role call training regarding the equipment and information out in the field with anything new that we're providing. It has worked well. The crews are aware that if they have any questions they can reach out to field supervisors or Chris and we can meet up with them and sit down or schedule in-house training at the training center.
Have you had opportunities to participate in training new hires?
SD: The way it works is that when we have a new hire, they will ride 40 hours a week or two. Once they feel comfortable running what we have, such as if we have different equipment from wherever they came from or if they came from a system that has different control monitors, they can get acclimated. For example, we have a new Zoll® reporting system. In that time working with us, they can learn that new system. We have designated field training officers now that were singled out as being the seasoned employee that has good grasp on all of our equipment and policies and procedures. New hires work with these training officers and learn how the team works, which enables us to better retain consistency in how we care for patients.
Obviously as they move forward and after they've been trained, they can always reach back and ask, "Remember that so-and-so call, did I do that appropriately because I ran into someone who did it differently?" We make sure that everyone is doing the same thing and it works out really well. Because we have these seasoned people paired with the new hires—whether they are a brand-new EMT or they've come from another place and haven't worked with our equipment and the way the Brewster Ambulance team works—it helps us all work consistently and adhere to Brewster procedures. All of our bases are staffed with a handful of training officers, that way we are not overwhelming one person as the designated trainer on the trucks. There are two to three people at each location on the ALS and the BLS side.
Have you noticed any difference between the pre-2010 Brewster Ambulance Service and the current Brewster Ambulance Service?
SD: Absolutely no difference between the first iteration of Brewster Ambulance. The company has the same philosophy. Mark and George have taken over from what George Sr. had instilled in them from when they were kids and grew up in the ambulance business. The feeling is just the same. They both have brought back the Brewster way since 1906. It's just great. Everything's the same from them caring for us, holiday giving of turkeys for Thanksgiving, the team Christmas party, the summer family day—that's all stuff we used to do pre-2010. They are 100% into the team, because we're the ones out there making them succeed. It comes from the top. They make us succeed and we want to succeed for them.
What else have you enjoyed doing at Brewster Ambulance?
SD: I was their first IT person when we got computers for the whole company, from Boston all the way down. I was the computer guy. I was there helping, being Chris's assistant, reaching out and helping the team. Technology is a hobby of mine. I used to build computers and stuff like that. I've always been a computer geek. I was their unofficial IT person before we got an official IT department.
For our field staff, I was that guy for a couple of years until we expanded so much that I couldn't do my field support and do the technical stuff as well. Once Steve Dinsmoor assumed that position, I showed him everything I'd set up. Steve occasionally reached out to me, and I'd give him tips or something and another set of eyes.
WHAT ARE YOUR ASPIRATIONS FOR YOUR CAREER LONG-TERM?
DS: I'm really happy where I'm at, doing what I love. I love supporting these guys. I kind of wear a bunch of hats, and I'm all over the place. I still get some calls, and crews reach out to me with questions or if they need help with something. I can troubleshoot over the phone or help out in the field. I'm very happy where I'm at at this time and I don't see any type of movement as far as me going anywhere, unless Jeff (Begin) needs me somewhere else. I'm very comfortable where I'm at right now.
Can you share a story about a patient call that was particularly memorable for you?
SD: I got attached to this one patient, a cancer patient, who I was taking multiple times from her home to a cancer center for radiation treatments. It was shortly after my mom passed away from cancer, and I got attached to her as far as being a helping hand. She was scared and I always held her hand during the transports. I tried to be very supportive for her and her family. Shortly after she passed away, the family reached out to me and thanked me for everything that I did for their mom.
I wanted to be supportive, to be there for her and listen to her fears on leaving her family as her cancer had spread aggressively. I would let her know that I knew what she was going through, and told her about my mom and how she wanted to give up and I kept telling her to fight and how my mom kept going for eight years. I was just there for her. My mom passed away in 2011, and this was at the end of 2012. Everything was fresh in my mind because of going through it with my mom for many years. I encouraged her to fight the fight that they don't want to as a cancer patient. I was there for her and the family, as it was totally new to them. I was just giving them what I knew that was going on based on my experience with my mom. I gave them my personal number and told them to call me anytime to talk. There were times when she would share how she would feel, and I'd share that it had happened to my mom and that it would clear up, like with a drug that gave her tingling in her feet and how her skin would peel and how painful it was. I said that it was a side effect of the drug, and that it happened to my mom. I would tell her, "You just gotta fight through it. Don't give up, as there's hope for many of us."
What are some of the fun things you do outside of work?
SD: I'm all about my family and my girls. I have two daughters, 10 and 14, both different personalities. My youngest is a competitive dancer. We travel throughout New England for different competitions, between national and regional competitions that she's involved in. I'm all about that. My older one has taken after my technical side where she's all into computers and taking stuff apart and put it together. I've gone to multiple gaming (PAX East) events and she loves going to those conferences. She's kind of my new computer geek, which is great. I can help her with a lot of things. She's always on her computer doing school projects. I didn't go to school for what I learned, I just tinkered and was self-taught through trial and error. My dancer, I can't help her. I'm not a dancer (laughs). I support her as much as I can, though, and go to all of her competitions and recitals. She's been dancing since she was about three.
This past summer we spent some time in New Hampshire. My wife has family in Ormond Beach, Florida. We go down to Florida almost every year. We'll drive down—we love driving down, it's better. Sometimes we'll bring the dog, take a couple of days to drive down and see the sights down the coast. Once there, we'll do some day trips to St. Augustine, Jacksonville or Daytona. We also head over to Orlando and hit the parks every once in a while. The girls love Sea World. Outside of work I'm just a house guy hanging out and a dance dad doing stuff with my family. Love my family, and I love my work with Brewster. I have the best of all worlds.