Rescue Divas is a camp for middle-school girls that aims to attract new recruits to the field of emergency medical services. The Ashland Bayfield county areas, like many rural areas, has a difficult time recruiting volunteers for EMS services. They decided to change their focus to recruiting women, who are underserved in EMS, and to develop a pipeline system, getting girls interested in becoming EMTs or working in emergency medicine. Two years ago, Carrie Okey approached Kevin Jacobson of the WI Office of Rural Health with an idea: a summer camp to inspire more young women from the Ashland area to become EMTs. “We would not have been able to do this without ORH,” she says.
Rescue Divas is a five-day residential camp experience, focusing on educating and exciting middle school age girls about careers (or volunteer positions) in Emergency Medicine. Throughout the week, girls participate in exploratory, hands-on activities that focus on a variety of skills and knowledge needed in Emergency Medical careers. During the week, they earn certification in First Aid, CPR and AED use. “21 girls attended the five-day resident camp. It was a great success and they are looking for local funding for 2 camps next year, maybe one for high school girls. Boys also want one!” reports Jacobson.
“This project has created a lot of enthusiasm in our community. The project doesn’t just excite and inform the girls who participate in camp. It also sends out ripples of interest in EMS to their parents, siblings, teachers, principals, etc. There has been a definite increase in the amount of conversation being had regarding these crucial services and how to get involved in helping others. It’s refreshing to current EMTs that so many people are excited about EMS and starting to realize (and participate in) the growing issue of recruitment and retention of EMTs in our rural areas,” explains Carrie Okey, program organizer, who is also an EMT in Washburn, WI and manager at the Northwest Wisconsin Concentrated Employment Program.