Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic program director strives for more

By Taylor Best

Q & A: Kristin Spencer

What is your degree in? How does it pertain to what you do currently?
I have two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree: journalism and broadcasting bachelor’s degree, criminal justice bachelor’s degree, as well as a master’s degree in criminal justice. I am also a certified Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic. All of my degrees enable me to do my job better because they are all intertwined.

Where did you receive your education? Was it really the best years of your life?
I received my journalism and broadcasting degree from Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, my master’s degree in criminal justice from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, and I was certified as a Paramedic at Tulsa Technology Center. Seriously, enjoy every second of your college years. Someday you’ll find yourself reminiscing, saying, “Remember the ‘good ole’ days?”

What did you visualize yourself doing as an adult when you were a child?
A police officer.  Although that didn’t happen, I did end up marrying one. [laughs]

Tell me a little about your family.
I have a wonderful husband, two stepchildren, and two kids of my own. I love to brag about my babies!

Did you ever hope to have one of your kids follow in your footsteps as an EMT/paramedic?
I suggested it a few times to my two kids, but neither were willing to work with blood. I guess you just have to get used to it.

How long have you taught at Crowder College?
Eight years and counting – loving every bit of it.

What part of your job do you find most challenging and why?
Right now, keeping a good grasp on the rapid growth of the EMT/paramedic program. As the program continually grows, so must your resource4s, personnel, and time spent ensuring everything is running smoothly.

As an active paramedic and practicing instructor, how would you say the field has developed/changed alongside technological advances?
Oh my, it has changed tremendously. In the past five years, technology has made monumental advances in pre-hospital medicine. The 12 lead Electrocardiography (ECG), Bluetooth, computer systems, and CO2 monitoring has facilitated better patient care. It’s an ever-changing environment.

Are there any upcoming projects in your department that you are excited about? What are they?
Currently, I am very excited about our Hybrid-Paramedic program that launched this past summer. It includes students from all over the world: Ireland, Argentina, the Philippines, and some domestic students. This is the first program like this in the entire state of Missouri. Looking ahead, I am excited about offering Missouri’s first community paramedic program through Crowder. The ball is rolling, and I’m getting way too excited.

How long have you been in this type of health field?
I’ve been a certified paramedic for 17 years now. Wow!

What was the first job that made you want to pursue a career in the health field?
It wasn’t a job, per say, but rather a TV show called “Rescue 911.” At the time, I was a stay at home mom to two young babies. I started watching this show, and over time I thought to myself, “I can do that.” So I did; look where I am now.

How long do you see yourself doing this?
Well, that’s hard to say because this is what I am passionate about. But, in reality, EMT/paramedic work is for the young and able. It is so taxing on the body. As you age, you develop injuries, which, in turn, results in being forced to bow out.

Are there any new practices in your field that you have a hard time adjusting to or just plain don’t like?
Yes. Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) removed a cardiac arrest medication called Atropine that was widely used for decades. The AHA stated that it just didn’t work anymore. I am having a hard time adjusting to the change.

What does your average workweek look like?
Mon-Fri I am an EMT/paramedic instructor, and every other Saturday I work a 24-hour shift as a paramedic at the Barry Lawrence Ambulance District. It can be quite exhausting, but I love it so much.

What was the craziest call you have ever been on as a paramedic?
Well . . . I was with my partner in Springfield, eating at a fast food restaurant, when we noticed a man attempting to steal our ambulance! He seemed to be under the influence of drugs. An altercation ensued, and the police were summoned. Things didn’t turn out so great for that guy.

What is your biggest motivation?
I continually have the desire to grow the program and make it bigger and better that it has ever been.

Do you have any free advice either relating to EMT/paramedic field or not?
Take your education seriously, but always remember to have fun. College years are so brief.

Which do you enjoy teaching more: EMT or paramedics?
[laughs] That’s a hard one, of course I love teaching both, but there is just something you can see in the eyes of the EMT students. They are hungry for knowledge. It’s so exciting.

What do you enjoy doing with your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my family, watching movies, cooking, shopping, and during the summertime, I love going out to the lake.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would like to think that in 10 years, I will be happily retired, living somewhere beautiful alongside my husband, just enjoying our life and maybe even relax a little.