What does a day in your work life look like?
If it's an ambulance day, we start off by checking our trucks and doing station chores, and then wait for 911 calls or transfers to come in. I try to study between calls. If a search & rescue gets called in, I'll head over with the Tech Rescue squad.
When I'm teaching, I usually get to the classroom early to unload all my gear and set up. Then I get to spend the whole day getting my students outside, practicing primary assessments, improvised splinting, shelter building, etc. It's my dream job!
What led to your work as a Wilderness EMT?
I took my first Wilderness First Aid course in 2012 as a camp counselor and fell in love with Wilderness Medicine. I did a month-long training at SOLO School to get my Wilderness EMT and NR-EMT in 2015. I later trained with the same school to become an instructor and began teaching WFA in 2018. I worked seasonal jobs mostly, ski patrol dispatch, nature education, summer camp, but Wilderness Rescue has always been where my heart is. I'm currently half-way through getting my paramedic license.
What did you want to be when you were growing up, or a little kid?
I just wanted to help people. I really loved drawing– I still paint and sketch for fun– but I love that I get to go to work everyday and help people.
Tell us something dirty.
Patient's bodily fluids excluded, the nastiest thing I've done recently was a grid search for a missing person. Our section was this swamp with grass 9 ft. tall, and we sank in the muck up to our ankles, occasionally going knee deep. It was so squishy! I just remember thinking "I'm going to get ticks AND leeches.”
What scares you?
Skunks and ticks. Give me a black bear any day, but I will run at the speed of light from a skunk.
What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?
Sleep and a social life, but when I'm done with clinicals it'll get better. Oh, and bathroom breaks– those are rare.
What are you great at, and what do you suck at?
I'm really great at teaching and patient care. I really suck at remembering words and the proper names for equipment or every-day objects, so that keeps life interesting. And my co-workers can confirm, I'm not the best at reversing an ambulance into a parking spot.
What does workwear designed for women mean to you?
I've worked as a ski-lift operator, volunteer fire and rescue, and EMT. Finding tactical gear and uniforms that fit is impossible. When I worked for the largest ski resort in the US, they didn't offer women's sizing for lift ops, lift maintenance, or ski patrol. If turn-out gear (firefighting gear) is too big, it's dangerous; loose hanging gear gets caught in the lift, boots that are too big can trip you up, helmets that are too big fall off... I could go on and on.
These industries are literally not made for women and AFAB folk to work in. It's a constant reminder that we're not expected in these jobs, that we're not welcome.
Having pants that fit, gloves that fit, helps us do our jobs safely. It says that we matter, that we're welcome in these fields, that our bodies, our gender, our assigned sex don't prevent us from doing our jobs, and doing them well.
What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field?
There are places you will work where your worth will be recognized and you will be safe. There will also be places you work where you get talked down to, where your gear never fits, sometimes dangerously so, and you will have to be on guard constantly. Knowing the difference, that there is hope, that you're not a quitter if you can't handle the toxicity, makes all the difference.
How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do?
Through teaching and social media. I try to make my courses as intersectional and inclusive as possible. There is so much inherent bias in healthcare. I try to highlight it wherever I can to help raise awareness. My career path isn't an easily accessible one– I'm very privileged to have been able to follow it. My goal is to eventually offer scholarships to my courses for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ folks to make Wilderness Medicine a bit more accessible.
If you could give your 20-year-old-self advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to not limit myself, to pursue my interests regardless of what others think. That it's okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. And to wear better arch support :)
Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?
SOLO School is a wonderful option if you're looking to take a Wilderness First Aid/ First Responder/EMT course! They have a beautiful campus up in Conway, NH but also offer courses all over the east coast. Rescue Inc. just opened VEMSA, an EMS school in Southern VT if you are interested in front-country CPR, EMR, & EMT courses.I'll be teaching some courses this spring and will hopefully be doing more basic knowledge videos on social media.
Follow Ariel on TikTok and Instagram @medic_mermaid.
Dovetail Workwear Disclaimer: We are not the boss of our Women At Work! They say it their way and wear it their way.