…to be a female firefighter paramedic
It’ll be 19 years in June that I’ve been working for Huntley Fire. Being a female in the fire service, it can be challenging. It can be different physically, emotionally, and mentally.
I’ve been fortunate to never feel discriminated against in any means. I know there are other women in this profession that are, and it’s very unfortunate. I’m confident in my ability to stand up for myself and I no longer feel intimidated now that I’m older and have more experience.
Originally, I wanted to be a nurse, like my grandma. But, working in the hospital and later going to school I thought, ‘Hey, I kinda like this’, and that’s why I took an EMT class on my own at Harper college. It was really exciting and different.
In emergency situations, being a firefighter is more exciting than staying inside in the hospital all the time. It’s just really exciting going on the calls, and going to people in their first minutes of need versus caring for them hours later in the hospital. I like the flexibility of the fire department more because of the 24 hours. We also get a pension and really good benefits.
I work 24 hours and then I’m off for 48. For a mother of five children, that’s pretty great! Even when they were little, it was a nice break just to be able to get away and do the job that I’ve been trained to do for so many years. I enjoy going into work, giving my best effort, and then coming home, forgetting about that, and just being a normal mom and wife.
When we arrive at the designated station on our shift, we receive reports from the oncoming shift: what happened yesterday, what kind of calls they went on, what’s gotten fixed and broken, who’s on the schedule for today, etc. We also go through every compartment in the ambulance and the engine just to get a visual of where everything is for calls that we may go on. Even in the ambulance, making sure everything’s there, because in an emergency situation, you just need to grab what you need and not be opening drawers.
Then we do chores, like housework. We clean the bathrooms, mop the floors, wash the rigs, and clean the “house.” Lately with COVID-19, we’ve been doing extra cleaning. We also have some kind of daily training, normally in our training tower. Obviously, there’s a few calls in between all of that.
The Corona pandemic has really affected our responses. Every call we go on now, we only send one person inside the household to find out what the situation is. Everybody else must remain outside. Normally, we tell family members to go in another room while we examine the patient to practice social distancing. We have full N-95 respirators, goggles, and gloves, and depending on what the actual call is, we’ll put on a plastic gown over our uniforms.
It’s been tough. It’s just a lot of precautions we’re taking now, and everyday it’s changing too. We’re currently training frequently and attend constant meetings on how we can protect ourselves and plans of action we may take.
— Kelly Gitzke
It is amazing to know that people call you in their most important time of need. Knowing that me and my other “brothers” are coming there to help them, it makes us feel good. Helping others and trying to make others feel better and important, it’s just who I am now. God sent me here to really help others and to care for people cause that’s really all I know how to do.
Ultimately, it’s the best job because you’re part of a family that is bigger than any family you’ll ever be apart; you’re part of a team. A firefighter, whether that be male or female, everybody has their strengths, and everybody has their weaknesses. It’s just based on the people you have around you and what kind of member of the team you can be a part of. Every call is different but that’s how we take care of others, based on our training, based on our experience, and based on the situation that it hands. I’m so fortunate to be part of an awesome Fire Department and to work with a bunch of great guys and girls.