Amber Woodward of Aiken, South Carolina, is on her way to achieve the highest rank no woman has ever reached before at her place of work. On her climb to become the director of her EMS agency, Woodward says without a graduate degree she has zero chance. Now, thanks to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) Scholarship, she can go back to school.
“Obtaining a master’s degree would give me the tools that are needed to oversee an entire service,” she said. “As a captain, I am overseeing daily operations and patient care interactions. A graduate-level degree would give me the education and tools needed for the financial and legal aspects to the position.”
As a leader, Woodward wants to change the paradigm, so her employees see EMS as a career instead of just a job.
“I want to lead others to work with compassion for each other as well as every patient they encounter. I feel like empowering others from the top down would change the ethos of our EMS culture,” said Woodward.
Another way she looks to make an impact in the EMS world is for workers in this field to have a better understanding of how to care for and interact with those with autism.
“My six-year-old son has autism. Raising a neurodiverse child changed my life and how I view the world,” said Woodward. “I wanted first responders to safely care for my son and the child of every other parent loving a neurodiverse or differently-abled person.”
Woodward created a multi-faceted approach to unite her EMS agency with her local community. She began training EMS providers about autism which led to training other agencies and lecturing at state-level conferences. In addition, she founded the Aiken County EMS Sensory Sensitive Special Needs Touch-A-Truck.
“This is a bi-annual event that creates a safe space for the entire special needs community to have positive encounters with first responders,” she said. “This event aids first responders of all disciplines in getting to know the specific needs in the community, create bonded relationships with this population and gives loved ones peace of mind.”
Woodward says her journey is not complete with this program as she is working to make it nationwide. Now with her scholarship, she is one step closer in earning her master’s degree in public administration, becoming a director and paving the way for those with autism in EMS.
To learn more about the NAEMT Scholarship, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/NAEMT.