Cami Zobel has worked as a Paramedic and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) trainer with the Tok EMS clinic since July 2005. Prior to joining the Tok team, she worked as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Central Mat-Su Borough. When asked how she got into the field, Cami said, “I think the medical field chose me as much as I chose it.” Cami’s mother worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in hospitals and medical offices when Cami was growing up. Cami was a patient herself when she was younger and also helped care for her older brother who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 20. “It is because of my own experiences that I can relate so closely to my patients and families and their needs. It’s what I like about my job the most—being an advocate for my patients.”
Cami began her medical career as a junior in high school, riding with the Marion County Ambulance Service in Salem, Oregon after school hours. These experiences inspired her to enroll in a paramedic program with a community college in Oregon. Unfortunately, because of family circumstances, she had to put her dream of becoming a paramedic on hold for 8 years. After moving to Alaska, she had the opportunity to take paramedic training and jumped at the chance. Cami began as a volunteer EMT in the Mat-Su Borough and then worked her way up the many different EMT levels to become the EMS Assistant Chief. She received her Paramedic License in 2004.
When Cami isn’t immersed in her job, she likes to do pottery and stain glass, and participate in outdoor activities, particularly 4-wheeling and snow machining. She is also involved with the local Search and Rescue organization in Tok.
Besides her paramedic duties, Cami teaches EMS courses in rural communities within the Interior Alaska region, and occasionally teaches paramedic refresher courses in Anchorage. She works in the Tok EMS office connected to the Tok Clinic and an ambulance bay. Tok has two primary ambulances and their own 2-bed ER. Their office also has a lab and can do x-rays.
Cami’s days can vary widely. During any given day, Cami may be called out on an ambulance run, called to help in the clinic, or sent to travel with a patient on a medivac to Anchorage or Fairbanks. Some days are extremely busy and long (e.g. starting at 3 am and not finishing until 4 or 5 am the next day), while other days are quite slow. Cami generally works on paperwork on the slower days and also receives some personal free time.
One of the unique aspects of working in rural Alaska is the amount of time Cami gets to spend with a single patient, sometimes anywhere from three to six hours. In urban EMS organizations, most EMS personnel spend only 15 to 20 minutes with a patient. EMS personnel in rural Alaska, on the other hand, will often be with a patient from the beginning of a crisis through their treatment in a clinic. Cami stated, “In smaller communities we are involved in all aspects of our patient’s care and we are able to see how our care makes a difference in our patients’ lives.”
Advice to students…
Cami advises high school students interested in the EMS field to take math and science classes, as well as health classes. She also suggests taking exercise and nutrition classes. Cami notes that many communities in Alaska offer free CPR, Emergency Trauma Training (ETT), and EMT classes to high school students. Many high school students in Alaska can also earn university credits for these courses. “This can be a big plus in getting them started with their college education.”
For those EMS personnel who are just beginning their professions, Cami recommends spending time on hobbies and other interests outside of work. She said it is easy to get burned out in the profession, so it is very important to take care of one’s self and spend time with family.
According to Cami, she has the “best job in the world” and would strongly encourage students to consider exploring the field of EMS.
This page was last updated by janice on January 22, 2007