Washington EMT Receives National EMS Award for Community Efforts

May 23, 2024
Columbia Southern University selects Jessica Olsen as the EMS professional of the year.

ORANGE BEACH, Ala.  — Firefighter/EMT Jessica Olsen, of Almira, Washington, is continuing the family business as she follows the same career path her mother has walked for many years now. Olsen’s desire to help others also, particularly those suffering in her community, is one of the reasons Columbia Southern University (CSU) recently honored Olsen as the 2024 Outstanding EMS Professional of the Year.

“I began my career as an EMT because I've always been passionate about helping others and have watched my mom help so many people, for as long as I can remember,” said Olsen, who works at Colville Confederated Tribes EMS, Fire, and Rescue. “I am currently a firefighter/EMT in the same community my mom has served for the past 20 years. In the underserved rural tribal community that I work in, our job is incredibly important.

“In the community I work in, mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders are very common. I am currently working with my fire chief, program medical director, tribal and county behavioral health to implement a new protocol to get these patients more appropriate resources from the first contact,” said Olsen, who has worked for two years at the Colville Confederated Tribes department.  

She explained that fostering understanding and healing is not an easy task with the stigma associated with mental health, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.  She references the book, “Behavioral Health Services for American Indians and Alaska Natives,” which indicates that for some, speaking about negative things such as depression, suicide, and other mental disorders invites these things into their world, so such discussions are forbidden, avoided, or discouraged. Olsen stated, “The tribe has begun to address this and has encouraged tribal members to ask for help.”

Olsen, who also volunteers for the small town of Almira Fire Protection District #8, believes in working continuously to build relationships with the community and businesses to improve the quality of interactions, and promote safety for personnel, patients, and the community while being able to facilitate access to care.

“I think the part I enjoy most about my job is the ability to positively impact people’s lives. In the years that I have worked there, I have responded to many people's worst days. These experiences have greatly impacted me and the way I choose to respond to situations. Being caring, compassionate, calm and knowledgeable in chaotic situations is very important to assist patients and families,” said Olsen, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in emergency management with a concentration in environmental science from CSU.

CSU established the Outstanding EMS Professional Award to recognize students and graduates serving in the EMS field for their commitment to saving lives, professionalism and their accomplishments in the field during National EMS Week (May 19-25). CSU also awards outstanding law enforcement, fire service and occupational safety and health professionals.


About Columbia Southern University
As an innovator in online education, CSU was established in 1993 to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience for today’s adult learner. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.

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