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Beyond the Books

Erin Kelly

Emergency Medical Technician Erin Kelly can remember all the firsts—first emergency call, first vehicle accident, first cardiac arrest.

“You have to tuck your emotions away and do what has to be done,” said the soft-spoken IUP junior. “That’s the hardest part of this job.”

It’s a job the twenty-one-year-old nursing major has been doing for Citizens’ Ambulance Service for the past year and a half. She works mostly at the Indiana station, located not far from campus.

“I definitely think that working as an EMT has helped me with things I’m learning in nursing,” she said. “I’ve already told a lot of nursing majors that it’s a good experience, a way to refine your skills.”

Randy Thomas, director of operations at Citizens’ Ambulance Service, has been pleased with Kelly’s hands-on treatment of patients in critical situations. “Her clinical nursing experience has been beneficial to the patients she treats as an EMT,” he said. “She is an outstanding young woman whose skills and training are being used effectively.”

In the summer, Kelly works about forty hours each week as an EMT, often in two twenty-four-hour shifts, and about fifteen hours each week at her campus job at the Emergency Services Training Office at IUP. During the school year, she works about fifteen hours as an EMT and about twenty hours at her campus job each week. Kelly, who has made the dean’s list most semesters, earned a 4.0 grade point average last semester.

Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly

She has learned a lot about people in her job as an EMT. “You meet a lot of different people out there,” she said. “You have to remember you are probably meeting them at the worst time in that person’s life.”

At home, there are people who understand the tragic situations Kelly sometimes faces. Her mother, Colleen Phillips, B.S.N., R.N., a 1995 IUP nursing graduate, is a nurse at Indiana Regional Medical Center. Her stepfather, Paul Phillips, is a former firefighter.

Before Kelly enrolled in college, she shadowed her mother at her job in a long-term-care home and decided she was not interested in nursing. Her mother had attended IUP as a nontraditional student, starting in 1989 when her three children were between the ages of two and nine. She encouraged Kelly to choose a field she enjoyed. “I told her to be herself,” Phillips said. “You have to be what you want to be.”

Kelly began college as an elementary education major. She had been in the major about a year when she decided to train to be an EMT after learning about it at her campus job, which was in an office where EMT training takes place. She changed her major to nursing after becoming interested in emergency medicine.

Barbara Welsh, M.S.N., R.N., a clinical instructor with the IUP Nursing Department, has supervised Kelly in the classroom and in clinical settings, such as in the lab and working with patients in extended-care and independent living facilities. She said Kelly’s experience as an EMT shows in the polished way she can discuss a patient’s condition in professional terms.

“Not only is she a nice student, but she’ll make a very fine nurse,” Welsh said. “She’s someone I would be comfortable having as a caregiver for any member of my family. She’s just always very upbeat, very professional. She has a good sense of humor.”

Kelly hopes someday to work as a helicopter flight nurse. The job would link her to pre-hospital care while she worked in a hospital setting. Her mother is confident Kelly will do well in the field because she has a kind heart. “She’ll be an excellent nurse,” she said. “She really cares.”