McHENRY, Md. – Growing up, Nathan Householder spent his days flipping through the pages of a Grey's Anatomy book while other kids his age were reading R.L. Stine books.
McHENRY, Md. – Growing up, Nathan Householder spent his days flipping through the pages of a Grey’s Anatomy book while other kids his age were reading R.L. Stine books.
His grandmother was a nurse for more than 50 years; his father was a medic for 30 years and remains active in the fire service with Potomac Fire Company in nearby Westernport.
To no surprise, he had access to all kinds of reading materials.
Fast forward to the present: Householder is a graduate of the Garrett College paramedic training program working as a flight paramedic for Valley Med Flight out of Dickinson, North Dakota. A typical day consists of briefings with the medical crew and pilot, in addition to case reviews, case study reports and continuing education sessions. As a flight paramedic, one has to apply the skills and knowledge to assist critical care patients.
Back in August 2017, Householder’s base in Dickinson received the call and was activated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for deployment to the FEMA Operational Command Center (OCC) in San Antonio for air evacuations, as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
“Our crew, consisting of a nurse, paramedic, and two pilots, gathered medical and other equipment in preparation for the deployment. The crew’s deployment was estimated to be seven days. We were transported to San Antonio via one of the company’s fixed wing assets, A Pilatus PC-12,” Householder stated.
“Upon arrival in San Antonio, our crew reported to the OCC for assignments (aircraft and crew). Our crew was among many crews staffing 25 rotor wing aircraft,” Householder explained.
“We were assigned to an A-Star 350 N859MB, identical to the aircraft we use on a normal basis. We inspected and stocked aircraft with medical equipment brought from home base.”
Householder reported that although he and his crew did not complete any missions during the time they were in San Antonio, they were utilized as a back-up crew on-site. He reflected on the overall experience he was able to observe, from his perspective, as a flight paramedic, based on the many activities and efforts that were taking place around them.
“Crews were utilized for the transport of patients from intensive care units (ICUs) of affected facilities to those unaffected. Mobile Medical Units (MMUs) were set up in the Beaumont, Dallas and Houston areas,” Householder said. “Crews would assist in the MMU’s with patient care until a transport was necessary for a patient presenting to the MMU.”
Householder said aircraft were used to get patients to the facilities that could offer the most appropriate care.
“Patients were transported from the MMU’s to an airfield nearby where fixed wing aircraft were stationed. The aircraft were utilized for most expedited transport of patients to appropriate facilities as several facilities were affected by Hurricane Harvey,” he explained.
Now, having more than 20 years of experience, being on the receiving end of more bad calls than good, while witnessing some very interesting situations that included both moral and ethical dilemmas, Householder said the philosophy is simple: this is the patient’s emergency, not yours.
Flip back the pages, and one will find that Householder’s passion for EMS and fire service, coupled with his rich family history and the paramedic training program at Garrett College, allowed him to get to where he is today.
He began with Tri-Towns EMS once he completed his EMT basic in 1997; Householder finished Firefighter I the fall of the same year. In 1999, he joined his father and became a member of Potomac Fire Co. In July 2014, he completed the paramedic training program at GC and received national registry certification.
“Jim (Koon) and Jean (Tressler) were there from the beginning of my journey to become a paramedic,” Householder said of his time at GC. “They were supportive and understanding through several setbacks that prevented me from completing this program. I’d also like to thank Doug (Beitzel) for the role he played, later on in my educational journey. My family were big supporters, be it immediate family or my new extended family in fire/EMS. My father and mother were my live-in study buddies.”
In addition to the supportive learning environment, he also credited the program for providing him with the rudimentary assessment skills, anatomy, and basic algorithms, all of which equipped him for his experience in the real world. To those considering the program, he offers the following advice:
“All the practices, procedures and treatments provided by Advanced Life Support (ALS) providers, such as paramedic, are based on an assessment. If you do not have a strong set of assessment skills, the care you provide could be amiss,” Householder said. “Any experienced advanced care provider will tell you, assessment comes first.
“Couple this with the paramedic program and a working knowledge of anatomy and physiology, you will be able to provide strong pre-hospital care,” continued Householder, adding, “This is no easy course. You will have to dedicate many hours, to the tune of 1,000- plus hours with classroom time, in the hospital through their various departments, field time, and studying.”
In terms of the value of his certificate and today’s paramedic job market, he spoke very highly of the education he received at GC.
“Many jobs today, and I’m talking in the millions, are available to those with skill or trade experience. The certificate I obtained upon completion of the paramedic program along with the National Registry Certification, has allowed me to gain licenses in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Dakota, all without attending another paramedic program,” Householder stated.
“Attending a four-year school or obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is not for everyone. There is no shame in trade work,” he said. “This country was built by tradesmen and tradeswomen – there will always be a need for those with a trade.”