Rescue Divas Saving Area’s Future Ashland County

UW Connections in Ashland County

Data Source: University of Wisconsin Service Center

In far northern Wisconsin, a demand for more emergency medical technicians (EMTs) is providing middle school girls with a pain-free opportunity to experience an ambulance ride and see how an emergency room works.

With help from a grant provided by UW-Madison, Ashland County EMT Carrie Okey has launched Rescue Divas, a summer camp dedicated to introducing girls to emergency medicine.

The campers stay overnight and live the week as if they are on call. Their days are structured with rig checks after breakfast and hands-on training and visits with K-9 units and dispatch center staff throughout the day.

“A lot of girls come because they just want to go to a camp,” Okey says, “but they end up pulling back the curtain and learning about life as an EMT.” The camp’s graduates leave with a clear view of the work that EMTs do for their communities.

…they end up pulling back the curtain and learning about life as an EMT.

When Okey was a middle school student herself, there was no reason to expect that she would wind up as an EMT in Ashland County. She was growing up in suburban Chicago, more than 400 miles south, but her experiences with the Girl Scouts steered her to study environmental sciences and, in turn, to earn certification as a wilderness first responder.

After serving for more than a decade as a volunteer EMT in the Bayfield and Washburn area, she approached the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health, housed at the UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, with her idea for a summer camp.

Enrollment so far is all middle school girls, but it’s been such a huge hit that expansion plans are being discussed.

“For me it’s really about making a difference,” Okey says. “You see people at some of their worst moments. They are really scared, and they need someone to care. When I go on a call, I feel like I’m helping someone through their darkest hour.”

That’s ultimately why UW–Madison’s Office of Rural Health remains committed to supporting the Rescue Divas program and taking advantage of training opportunities to improve the resources and skills for future emergency medical technicians.