Emergency medical professionals say there is no such thing as a typical day at work. Whether in a local hospital emergency room or in the field, each medical emergency is unique to the individual who experiences it as well as the person responding to the call for assistance. But for 25-year-old Nick Harris, now a paramedic in the Parkridge West Hospital Emergency Department as well as an emergency medical responder for Warren County, Tennessee, one hot August day in 2016 will forever resonate in his memory.
Just over a year into Nick’s career as a newly-minted paramedic, a horrible encounter between a young driver and a freight train in rural southeast Tennessee compelled him to commit to a lifetime of service to those who need it most. Nick and his partner that day, Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT) Jessica Gilliam, worked along Melissa Hoosier, a nearby off-duty paramedic, and other first responders who answered the 911 dispatch.
The driver of the car had been ejected from the vehicle and had suffered multiple broken bones and a severe head injury. The paramedics also suspected internal bleeding. The prognosis looked grim, but Nick and his team said the training kicked in decisively and calmly put their quick thinking, training and skills to work. The driver survived, thanks, in part, to Nick and his team.
“EMS was not one of my career choices initially,” Nick said. “I was introduced to it by a friend who worked for Hamilton County EMS and I loved it.”
In 2011, following completion of school, then-EMT Harris began working for EMS organizations in and around the Chattanooga area. Eventually becoming a paramedic, he settled into his career at Parkridge West, a member of the five-facility Parkridge Health System, an affiliate of HCA Healthcare, in nearby Chattanooga, and Warren County EMS.
Transitioning from a field-based EMS work to the hospital emergency room of Parkridge West last summer wasn’t as difficult as he thought. He said he enjoys experiencing other aspects of healthcare, and truly understands the meaning of “Always in Service”, this year’s National EMS Week theme.
“To me, ‘Always in Service’ means I’m always in an environment where my skill sets could be needed,” Nick said. “Anytime I’m around other people, the knowledge I have has the ability to help others.”
Either in the field or at the hospital, Nick says he is continually learning.
“My role at Parkridge West gives me a wider scope of medicine,” Nick said. “There are things here I may not experience in the field, such as lab values of a patient. It’s a broader spectrum of medicine. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Nick, his crew and the other first responders, were recently recognized by Tennessee Emergency Medical Services for Children at the 2017 Tennessee Star of Life Awards in Nashville. Their mutual patient that August day, whose slightly raspy voice is the only physical remnant of her ordeal, enthusiastically helped present the award to them at the ceremony.
“It was a truly touching experience to see what our first responders do out in the field before they even hit our Emergency Departments,” said Melissa Kertesz, director of the Emergency Department at Parkridge West Hospital. “I can’t express enough how grateful I am to have EMS/First Responders do what they do and even more so to have someone like Nick Harris as a part of my team.”
Melissa Kertesz, director of the emergency department at Parkridge West Hospital, pictured with Paramedic Nick Harris at the 9th annual 2017 Tennessee Star of Life Awards.
The 2017 National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week is observed May 21 – May 27. HCA Healthcare and its affiliate Parkridge West Hospital celebrate Nick Harris and all other EMS professionals for their life-saving contributions in the communities we serve.