Bill Wood’s “sense of belonging” and giving back to his community
It was a rather dreary day in New Hampshire when firefighter-paramedic Bill Wood and his partner received a call for a basic transfer of a patient going home after more than six months in the hospital. Wood looked out the window at the chilly rain pouring down and thought to himself, “this patient is finally going home, and the weather could not be worse.” He didn’t know it at the time, but this would be a transport that he would remember for the rest of his life.
Flashback to the late 1960s, Wood was an enthusiastic first-year student at the University of New Hampshire in Durham with the world in front of him and a fairly good idea of how he wanted to make his mark in it. With a background in public safety and having always been interested in the medical field, he decided to take a first aid course being offered on campus, solidifying his future place within the world of Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Around this same time, Durham commissioned an ambulance agency in honor of an influential community doctor who had recently passed away. In 1970, Wood took the first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course and certification exam offered in New Hampshire. He then took and passed the first certification examination for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and has maintained his certification for 50 consecutive years!
Wood remained in New Hampshire and joined a local fire department working as a firefighter and paramedic since the early 1970s. As an active public safety officer, it has been particularly important for him to maintain his certification with the National Registry. “For me it's such a natural fit; I mean, we’re out here helping people, making a difference and honestly, remaining certified with the National Registry has always been a top priority,” said Wood. “It gives me an advantage over those in the profession who chose not to maintain their certification because I'm a part of something greater. This vast, dynamic community of EMS professionals and resources working together to keep us informed on critical issues and changes within a profession that’s constantly transforming.”
“Being certified by the National Registry gives me a sense of belonging,” Wood continued. “Everyone is a part of the same team, we’re all proficient in our respected EMS levels, and this is our opportunity to stay informed, educate ourselves and give back to the community.”
Over the last 50 years, there have been significant advancements in healthcare, and the role of EMS professionals has changed drastically in that time. “Technology has changed everything; the various levels of certification, EMTs and paramedics, we’re performing procedures now on the side of the road or in the back of the rig that we had never even dreamed of before,” Wood explained.
As younger generations of EMS hopefuls enter the field, Wood believes that inspiring these new professionals to maintain their certification with the National Registry is an essential part of his job. “The camaraderie, the respect, the resources, it’s something that can’t be explained, it can only be felt and being certified by the National Registry is a distinguished accomplishment that I’m extremely proud of, and I don’t want to give that up.”
In 50 years of public service, Wood has seen it all, but still, nothing sticks with him quite like the transfer on that drab day in Durham. The rain continued to pour as he assisted the patient, who happened to be a minister – getting him comfortable and secured for the transport home. The minister was thrilled to be going home, the positive energy radiating from him. He did not even notice the rain.
As they neared the minister’s residence, the rain suddenly stopped, the clouds broke away, allowing the sun to shine through. As they backed into his driveway, the minister’s entire family came outside to welcome him home. They cheered and embraced him one by one; everyone was smiling and laughing.
Wood stood very still; the rays beat down on his face when a feeling came over him. He was exactly where he was supposed to be, and he knew it. “The feeling was indescribable. The hard calls, the unpleasant ones, it all balances out, and we are making a difference in people's lives every day. It’s extremely rewarding,” said Wood. “We are well-trained to handle any challenge thrown at us, and there have been some stressful situations for sure, but standing there that day, I knew every challenge was worth it.”
Wood was given the National Registry’s first 50 Years of National EMS Certification in October 2022.