The old saying that behind every good man, there's a great woman has been used so many times it's almost a cliché, but not this time.
Otis Oldman will tell you the motivation behind his success at becoming a Basic EMT, Intermediate and Advanced EMT, and now a Paramedic, was his wife, Lucinda, who dragged him to a Basic EMT class five years ago. From that time on, he's been driven to become the best EMT he could be. That ambition has resulted in Otis becoming the first Native Paramedic in this region, and the second Paramedic for UNHS.
When Otis graduated from Red Mesa High School in 1998, the last thing he wanted to do was work in the medical field. After attending the College of Eastern Utah-San Juan Campus, in Blanding, for a short time, Otis relocated to Tucson, Arizona and started a career as a graphic artist. He worked for Mel Nick Outerwear for a few years before going to work for Texas Instruments as a computer chip technician. This position lasted until 2009, when the nation's economy crashed and he was laid off due to the recession.
There were no jobs in Tucson, so Otis and his family moved back to Montezuma Creek and that's when his wife took a hand in her husband's future. Otis was still trying to find work when his wife convinced him to take a free EMT Basic Course, in Montezuma Creek.
"She didn't want to take the course alone, but I didn't think I'd ever have anything to do with the medical field. That wasn't for me, but she dragged me along," Otis said. "I got hooked after the first two classes that were taught by Mt. Nebo Training, from Provo, Utah. I passed the class, certified as a Basic EMT in 2010 and ran for a year. Lucinda passed the course too, and she's still an EMT."
Otis explained that at the time he passed the Basic EMT course, there were no Advanced Life Support personnel in the Montezuma Creek area. Everyone was a Basic EMT. He said he got tired of having other ambulances, with Advanced Life Support personnel on board, intercept Montezuma Creek ambulances to provide help. He decided to put himself through the EMT Intermediate Course, in Provo. He paid his way through the classes and traveled to Provo every Monday and Wednesday and every other Saturday. He worked until noon on Monday and drove to Provo for class from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. and then drove home. He got home at 4:00 a.m. and went to work at 8:00 a.m. He did the same thing on Wednesdays and made the same trip every other Saturday. He did that for almost three months.
"This was something I really wanted to do. It was something that was needed here," Otis explained. "I got certified for EMT Intermediate and at that time the state was transitioning over to Advanced EMT's. Mt. Nebo offered a bridge-over course to Advanced EMT so I took that for another two weeks up there. I certified as an Intermediate and transitioned to Advanced EMT."
He was an Advanced EMT from 2011 until last month, when he was certified as a Paramedic. He said there aren't too many more skill sets from Advanced EMT to Paramedic, but he can do synchronized cardioversions, pace somebody, administer a lot more drugs, look into differential diagnosis of a patient and do more in-depth patient assessments. The level of training is more advanced as a Paramedic. It's more knowledge that comes with critical thinking, he added.
Otis has been a Certified EMS instructor for the State and now he could help teach EMT classes if that opportunity comes up in the future. Now there are two Paramedics working at UNHS, Otis and Ray Whaley, who is a veteran Paramedic with several years of experience. There is also one Paramedic in Bluff and one other in Monticello that Otis took his Paramedic training with. That makes four in the county and two in Montezuma Creek. Otis is the only Native paramedic in this area.
Otis described the Paramedic course as a pretty tough school.
"It was stressful, you work as much as can, and take classes in Moab on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday," he said. "A lot of information was crammed into one year. Most of my clinicals were done at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. That's a Level One Trauma Center and there's a lot of good RN preceptors that I worked with up there. I also did clinicals at St. Mary's Medical Center, in Grand Junction, Colorado working with the ICU departments. I did my paramedic fire department rides with Pleasant Grove Fire Department in Pleasant Grove, Utah."
According to Otis, a Paramedic is somewhere between an LPN and an RN in experience and skills. The main scope of practice for a Paramedic involves pre-hospital care in the ambulance.
"It's really thinking on your feet, thinking outside the box, improvising a lot. I enjoy being the first one on scene and trying to figure out what to do. It's a lot different than working with computers, or sitting at a computer trying to come up with a design. Every run is different. No run is the same," Otis said. "I never thought I'd get into the medical field at all. Just becoming an EMT Basic has really opened a lot of doors, I guess you could say, and a lot of routes I can take. I hope to become an RN and maybe someday a Nurse Practitioner or something. I'm taking it slow though."
Otis said another benefit of becoming a Paramedic is being able to help with teaching classes and training, with a lot more knowledge. He and Ray Whaley will both attend an Advanced Cardiac Life Support Instructor training, in St. George, later this month. This will allow them to teach ACLS classes at all four UNHS sites in San Juan County.
When asked what advice he would give to others wanting to pursue advanced EMT certifications and become a Paramedic, he said, "It's really doable, it's not easy. It takes a lot of effort to become a Paramedic. A lot of time away from your family and a lot of time away from work, but it's doable. I did all this on my own and I've struggled a lot during the past year, coming up with gas money and hotels because I wasn't working that much," he said. "Unfortunately with EMS you're never done. There's always more training. You're constantly training and you have to practice your skills. It's the same thing as with anything else, if you don't use it you lose it kind of stuff."
Otis is now a Nationally Registered Paramedic, after taking the National Registry Exam, in St. George on June 9. The National Registry requires recertification every two years and you have to keep up with continuing education, he added.
Otis' wife is still an AEMT and she's been very supportive through all the training and time away from home to become an Intermediate and Advanced EMT and now a Paramedic.
"She's pretty impressed and pretty proud," Otis said. "She relays that quite a bit."
She's on maternity leave, now, after having a baby boy on May 29. The couple has four children, three boys and one girl. Congratulations to Otis for his accomplishments and his fine family, and for marrying that great woman who inspired him to reach his goals.