Donald Reed, Emergency Medical Service director for Arkansas Methodist Medical Center, said his interest in becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT) began as a teenager with a stint as a police explorer forwarding 911 calls to the ambulance service.
But the Florida native’s life took a different path after high school, and he worked in retail management until the mid-1990s, when he saw an ad for an EMT position.
“I always had an interest in public service,” he said. “I was already a firefighter, so I thought I’d try being an EMT.” After he completed his training, he joined Arkansas Methodist Medical Centers ambulance service as a part-time EMT in 1996. He began working full-time in 1999 as a triage paramedic in the emergency room.
From there, he became the manager of the services base in Rector and became EMS director in October 2007.
“I feel like I was called to [working in emergency services],” he said. Everything he’s done in life has lead to this, from his time as a police explorer to his management training in the retail sector, he said.
“It’s prepared me to run the whole service,” he said, which encompasses bases in Paragould, Rector and Corning, five ambulances and 35 EMTs and paramedics. The ambulance service makes 8,000-plus responses a year, which includes public relations appearances, he said.
His first goal when he became EMS director centered around updating the ambulance fleet and its equipment.
He said the fleets capabilities are now on par with ambulance services in metro areas like Little Rock, with 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) monitors, continuous positive airway pressure capability and the ability to place an intravenous line into the central line in a patient’s bone when a placing a standard IV is not possible.
The next big goal is gaining the ability to transmit EKG results to the hospital electronically, he said.
“I want to leave [the profession] better than I found it,” he said.
To that end, Reed was elected May 14 to the board of directors of the Arkansas Emergency Medical Technician Association. He represents 15 counties in Northeast Arkansas for Region 2. The board helps develop rules and regulations for the profession in Arkansas, he said.
“I feel it’s an honor and privilege to serve my coworkers and colleagues in my area,” he said.” I felt humbled when I was asked to do that.”
He said the greatest part of his career is the differences we make in people’s lives. “People thank us for saving them,” he said. “And I tell them, it’s not me, its God. He uses our hands as instruments here on Earth.”
He admitted that he once thought about leaving the profession and returning to retail. He said he left for about a month.
“You feel this guilt, you’ve been called to do this job [emergency services], and you’re not doing it. This is where I need to be.”