It doesn’t matter what time it is or what day it is, EMTs are always there to respond.
We sat down with the group in Rolette to find out what it’s like.
Julie Tastad has volunteered for the Rolette Ambulance for the last 12 years.
She, like many of the other volunteers, have other jobs during the day.
She works full-time with Rugby Ambulance.
“It’s the worst time to have to need somebody. It’s the worst time that you feel in your life. When you can give that calming assurance that, ‘We’re here. We’re going to help you.’ That to me is like, that makes such a difference even if it’s not in our thoughts the worst thing that we’ve seen — to that patient it’s the worst thing at that time,” said Tastad.
Every minute counts.
So when there are staff shortages, that could make the response time longer.
“Usually here, it’s just a driver and an EMT in the back. So, for us to not have a driver, we’re basically not able to work,” said Tastad.
24 volunteers serve roughly 470 square miles of Rolette County and respond to 100 calls per year. To continue serving, they need your help.
“We could really use a couple more right now. It is a tough commitment to be working full-time and then just be able to drop everything and run in here and then go,” said Steve Gilje.
Gilje has been driving for the last year.
He’s a farmer and isn’t always available during the day.
“Well, my wife’s an EMT and I’ve been there when my own mother was picked up by this ambulance and taken to the hospital. So, it’s vital in the community. We don’t get a lot of calls but the ones we do get are…they’re important to those people so that means they’re important to us,” said Gilje.
Squad Leader Diane Arstein says for the last six years, she’s had trouble finding volunteers for this important shift.
And Rolette isn’t alone in the fight.
“So, I’m suspecting that in the state in general, you will see many rural squads close. Hopefully, we will keep our momentum going but the struggle didn’t just begin and it won’t end any time soon,” said Arstein.
Although these 24 men and women have gotten by this far, time is running out.
“When nobody volunteers and when the current squad is used up and tired. And, look at the dark circles, my friends!” Arstein said.
I mean, burnout is a real thing.
“Oh, it is a real thing and I was just actually at a conference in Fargo talking about that very thing –burnout and wellness in first responders. And it’s important for communities to realize that those volunteers that they rely upon might be getting tired and their well-being is impacted,” Arstein added.
They add that you don’t have to have any special qualifications other than a valid driver’s license and CPR certification.
“It’s a lot of commitment, and if you think, ‘I’m just a driver.’ The ambulance can’t go without a driver. I mean, you’re not just a driver. You’re an essential part of the team,” said Tastad.
To thank these volunteers for all that they do to serve the community, KX donated gift cards to the local cafe that the team can use for training lunches.