Breaking the Mold – Cassandra Bolstridge

October 17, 2017

Two years ago, Portage, Maine native Cassandra Bolstridge was involved in a devastating car accident. Her car was destroyed and she severely dislocated and shattered her right ankle. She was flown to Eastern Maine Medical Center where she endured a five-hour surgery. She spent the following six months unable to walk. “If it had not been for the quick and careful actions of the Crown Ambulance emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, I probably would have lost my foot that night.” Although the accident was a traumatic experience, it opened Cassandra’s eyes to the role of an EMT. “They can truly help a person and save their quality of life. For me it was just my foot, but for others, it’s their life.”

From the time she was a child, Cassandra knew she wanted a career in the medical field. “I love helping people. It’s very rewarding.” Cassandra also has family ties to the emergency medical services (EMS) field. Her father was the fire chief in Portage and her mother is an EMT. “I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become an EMT as a stepping stone to something else.” In fact, she plans to continue her education to become a physician’s assistant after she graduates from NMCC with her Associate in Applied Science degree in EMS. In addition to going to school, Cassandra plans to obtain employment as a paramedic after she graduates.

Cassandra spent one semester studying EMS at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. Cassandra knew she wanted to return to Aroostook County. “I love it up here.” In addition to offering the EMS program, Cassandra chose NMCC for various reasons. “It’s close to home, affordable, and a good start. There is so much opportunity here.” Cassandra’s father, mother, and brother also attended NMCC.

Cassandra is happy that she chose NMCC. “My experience here has been amazing. My instructors are not just teachers. They work in the field and share their personal experiences.” Cassandra also likes the individualized attention she receives from her instructors. “They are very focused on you. They want you to succeed and be knowledgeable about EMS.” Cassandra has developed friendships within the program and enjoys working with her peers to acquire skills in EMS. “The program gets you ready to work. I love it!”

Photo: NMCC EMS student Cassandra Bolstridge demonstrating how to perform an intraosseous cannulation on an infant.

Cassandra has had a lot of exposure to EMS. In addition to having several friends and a boyfriend who works in the field, Cassandra also had the opportunity to do her clinical experience at the Caribou Fire and Ambulance while completing the basic EMT course. Cassandra admits that she was somewhat nervous in the beginning and questioned if her male colleagues were going to like her. She speaks highly of Adam Chartier, a firefighter/paramedic at the facility, stating that he made her feel welcome. “EMS in Aroostook County is like a family. Employees are helpful and supportive of NMCC students. They are there to help you. They have been in your shoes and know what it’s like.” Cassandra’s hard work and guidance from others has paid off, as she recently became a nationally certified EMT.

Cassandra discusses the strengths that women can contribute to EMS. “Women are nurturing, so patients tend to be more comfortable with a woman.” She states that women also have smaller hands, which makes it easier to perform certain tasks.

According to Cassandra, potential challenges for a woman in EMS include less physical strength compared to men, the possibility of being second-guessed by others, and the lack of contact with other women in the workplace. “You can feel out of place if you don’t know anyone.”

Cassandra offers advice for females who may be considering a career in EMS including not getting discouraged because it is a male-dominated profession, developing a sense of humor, and having thick skin. “If you respect them, they will respect you. Don’t sell yourself short. You can do it.”

She also offers tips to be a successful student. “It’s okay to struggle. Just keep going and don’t give up. Focus is key. To stay focused, you need to study. Keep your drive.” A desire to learn is crucial. “If you have a question, ask it. Engage with your instructors and tell them that you want to learn.”

Cassandra is very passionate about EMS. “You never know what you are going to do on a day-to-day basis. Helping people and being a part of that moment gives you an adrenaline rush. It also makes you appreciate life.”

Quick Facts:

Emergency Medical Technicians

Job Duties

Assess injuries, administer emergency medical care, and transport injured or sick persons to medical facilities.

Skills Needed

Critical thinking, active listening, coordination, speaking, and service orientation.

2016 National Average Pay

$15.71/hour; $32,670/year

Projected Job Growth: 2014-2024


Source: O’NET Online (2016)

NMCC 2016 EMS Graduate Success Rate (Employed, Continuing Education, or both)