Medic is devoted to saving lives in her hometown

Cordova Volunteer Fire Department EMS Captain Becki Shipman masters intensive courses, earns EMS-3 credentials

Veteran Cordova first responder Becki Shipman, captain of Emergency Medical Services with the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department, has mastered a new round of medical training to become the department’s third EMT-3, joining Jason Groves and Joanie Behrends.

She is also certified for Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

Shipman recently returned from intensive training with the Southern Region EMS Council in Anchorage, where she passed her exams on Sept. 25.

It’s been a long road traveled since Shipman decided a decade ago that she wanted to dedicate herself to saving lives in the town she dearly loves.

Shipman signed up for her first EMT class in 2006, racking up 160 hours of instruction in eight weeks, seven days a week, without a break.

A year later, with another 80 hours of training with the Girdwood Fire Department, she became an EMT-2.

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Shipman studied under instructor Vicki Hall, formerly of CVFD for the first course and Terry Kidel, of the Girdwood Fire Dept., for the EMT-2 course.

In May of 2014, Shipman advanced to lieutenant of CVFD’s EMS Dept., working under former CVFD captain and medic Jason Groves.

Six months later, Shipman advanced to captain.

“I’ve been the EMS captain since that time,” she said, “And James Thorne currently fills our lieutenant position.”

As an EMT-3, she is authorized to administer additional medications specifically for heart arrhythmias, heart attacks and codes – meaning the patient has no pulse and no respirations.

“Due to work and travelling schedules,” Shipman said, “we found ourselves without an EMT-3 the majority of the time; hence the need for someone else to become certified, which was myself.”

“Becki Shipman has been a fixture of our community,” Groves said, “And EMS department for as long as I can remember. I have known her to be an outstanding medic with an eye for the long-term health of our patients – not (with) a ‘snatch them up and get them to the hospital mentality,’ that is sometimes the case in many departments.”

“The ACLS certification,” she said, “enables me to add a few more cardiac/stroke treatments to the drug box in our ambulance, that the EMT-3 certification alone wouldn’t have allowed. With my EMT-3, ACLS and PALS, I have received training that is more specific to cardiac-related patients, and it expanded the list of drugs I can use to treat patients with cardiac problems. It really is exciting, but was no easy feat. I’ll be the first to admit that!”

CVFD Chief Michael Hicks is proud of Shipman’s efforts.

“From what I know, it was quite difficult,” Hicks said. “Becki spent a lot of time studying and preparing for the training prior to going. We’re continually looking for opportunities to improve our service and are grateful for the training opportunities that we receive. Her training will be passed on to the rest of the crew and will enhance our capabilities.”

“I love EMS and serving our community, that’s the best way to describe it,” Shipman said. “Being an EMT in Cordova is unique, in that we know most everyone we care for in the back of the ambulance. Cordova is served by some very caring and loving EMS crews, who take their volunteer work to heart.”

On average, Cordova’s first responders are called out 150 times a year. There can be multiple emergency calls in a day, several times in the same week.

“Just a month or so ago,” Shipman said, “I responded to eight calls in a six-day period.”

CVFD’s EMS crew also responds to fire calls, to provide patient care and supply firefighters with water, vital sign monitoring and SCBA tank swap-outs at fire calls.

“We love our firefighters and need to take care of them too,” Shipman said.

“Without every other EMT, firefighter – and of course my family,” she said, “who give up hours of their time with me, I wouldn’t be a successful EMT. It just wouldn’t be possible.”

What keeps Cordova’s firefighters and EMTs going?

It’s seeing people they’ve treated or responded to still walking down the street.

“It makes me feel good,” Shipman said, “Knowing we might have been the difference between a good outcome or a bad outcome for that person.  It’s responding to a full-on code, a cardiac arrest and seeing that that patient is still walking the streets of Cordova today, blessing their family with their presence every night. That’s the best feeling, ever.”

Shipman credits Behrends and Groves, and hours of call-outs and training, to being where she is today.

Additionally, Shipman’s responsibilities as captain require her to be accountable for all the actions of the medical crew and ensuring that the EMS crew’s responses to the community’s needs are appropriate, Groves said.

“This means less family and personal time,” Groves explained. “Whenever the pagers go off she is on-call, whether scheduled or not, should the situation demand it. I appreciate the hard work that Becki puts into the department and the community.”

“One of the more challenging duties is the training of her subordinates,” Hicks said. “With all but two of our fire department members being volunteers, this can be very demanding. Our volunteers have families and jobs that they are responsible for, and dedicate a great deal of time training so that we can provide quality service to our community.”

Medic Emily Stolarcyk works side-by-side with Shipman and is supportive of her colleague’s advancement in the EMS field.

“It was long and hard, and stressful – and Becki did amazing,” Stolarcyk said. “She is now the highest certified medic in Cordova. With the ACLS certification, she has more training than a Paramedic. She fills the very demanding volunteer role of EMS captain here and she makes sure there are trained folks, also volunteers, to respond whenever there is a need. Cordova is lucky to have her.”

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