Recent SCC graduate follows father's footsteps to become Paramedic
Growing up, Nick Barger was always surrounded by ambulances, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, he said. His father, Rusty Barger, worked in the field since 1983, and Nick would visit him almost daily at the station.
“I wasn’t like most kids who get excited when they see an ambulance,” said Nick Barger. “It was a daily thing for me. The best part, though, was that I got to know the people who worked with my dad and the station became like a second home to me.”
Even though Nick Barger, now 23, enjoyed his time at the station, he did not intend to become an EMT or paramedic.
“Dad was gone a lot,” Nick Barger said. “It’s really common for people in this line of work to have two or three jobs just to make enough money to get by. That wasn’t what I wanted.”
Nevertheless, like many others that work in the emergency medical field, Nick eventually felt a calling that he could not ignore. Soon after graduating from South Laurel High School in 2011, he signed up for an EMT class. The ironic part, though, is that he did not even tell his dad he was enrolling.
“He never seemed interested in working in this field,” said Rusty. “He enrolled before I even knew what he was planning.”
Nick became a licensed EMT in 2014 and recently took the next step in his educational journey when he completed the SCC EMS Paramedic Program at Somerset Community College (SCC). He has finished the required testing to become a licensed paramedic and is now waiting on test results. He and his dad both work at Clay County EMS. Rusty also works as a paramedic in Jackson County, as a court security officer for Laurel County and as a preceptor for the SCC EMS Paramedic Program. Rusty Barger holds a bachelor’s degree in police studies, as well as a paramedic certification. Both father and son reside in Laurel County.
“The best part about this career is being able to know how to treat complex medical issues and interact with patients in a meaningful way,” said Nick.
Even though both Rusty and Nick agree that their jobs are an integral part of the health care system, and that they are passionate about helping those in their community, many times they feel their services are abused or go unnoticed.
“Only about 15 to 20 percent of the calls we get are legitimate emergencies,” said Nick. “We commonly have people who use us to get a ride to town. We get them to the hospital and they leave. However, no matter how much that goes on, it’s the patients that are truly in need that make this job worth it.”
Nick said that even though many times EMTs and paramedics are not thanked for their service, one patient he helped a few years back made an impression on him.
“We had a stroke patient we were able to assist in Corbin a while back,” Nick said. “We recognized the signs of a stroke, got him to the hospital, and definitive care was administered. A few months later, the patient, who was fine, came back to say thank you. It made me feel like everything I’d done up to that point was worth it.”
Nick said that his decision to attend SCC’s EMS Paramedic program was based on the influence his dad, as well as other paramedics he works with, had on him.
“EMT skills are limited,” Nick said. “I can better help the people I’m treating as a licensed paramedic.”
When the pair are on runs together, they work like clockwork, Nick said.
“I know his method to the madness,” Nick said. “I can have everything ready for him because I know what he’s going to do.”
Partnerships like the one between Nick and Rusty are common, both of them said, since working seamlessly with your partner is not only essential to the job, but could also mean the difference between life and death for a patient.
Both agree that you have to have a heart for the job in order to be successful. By combining passion with education, both men have made careers of which they can be proud.
“In terms of training,” Nick said, “I wouldn’t go anywhere else (besides SCC). The instructors are tough, but they know their stuff and if you want to learn, they’ll teach you everything they know.”