After her parents divorced, Louisa Partain had a tough childhood. As a result, she turned to drugs.
"I was pretty much wrecking my life growing up," Partain said. "I had decided to take the path of ill-gotten gain."
Then, her life changed thanks to a firefighter friend, who showed her how exciting and rewarding emergency response work could be. Years later, Partain knows how rewarding it really can be.
She has been named the 2006 Oregon Emergency Medical Services "Educator of the Year."
Partain, a Banks resident, was acknowledged by the organization for her work as a 10-year Emergency Medical Technician instructor at the Cascade Campus and is a 15-year volunteer firefighter for the Banks Fire Department. The mother of three can hardly contain her excitement over the award.
"It was a total surprise," Partain said. "It’s quite an honor. I can’t really describe how special it is."
Partain is an instructor in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS/EMT) program, which offers career training for entry-level positions in an emergency medical setting. Those students who successfully complete the EMT Basic, Intermediate or Paramedic coursework will be eligible to apply to take state certification exams at that level. Partain can relate to her students, as she was taking the same exams more than a decade ago.
"I felt I had to get into the field," Partain said. "I saw it as an exciting career and a way to save a life. But after doing it for a while I’ve found it’s more of a privilege to make a difference over the long term. It was kind of how it all started for me. I love being a firefighter and I always wanted to teach. They are two things I enjoy."
Being on call for the Banks Fire Department means she could be called into action at any time and usually is. There have been times she has responded to a 3 a.m. call and then has had to come to PCC-Cascade in north Portland to teach an early morning class.
"That’s when I slug some coffee down so I can teach," said Partain with a smile.
But what really makes her smile is how she has become a mentor for aspiring paramedics in the program. Just like the friend who prompted her to save herself and get into the emergency services field, Partain serves as a gatekeeper into the profession.
"With teaching, I have come full circle," Partain said. "My grandfather raised me and he recently suffered a significant stroke. Four of my former students responded to his home and took care of him. His health has since improved, which shows how good they are. They made me proud."
In her classes, Partain shows students how to be safe while on a call, how to administer air-way management, check patients and develop cardiac skills. That’s all important, but it’s the joy of making a difference that really makes it all worthwhile for her.
"There are times when you see the students get something," Partain said. "I like being a part of that. It is gratifying to have the students come back after graduation and hear how they tested the knowledge they gained from my class."