Mueller named EMT of the Year
Award winner works at Clintonville ambulance
By Bert Lehman
Rachael Mueller, who has worked part-time for Clintonville Area Ambulance since 2015, received the Wisconsin VFW EMT of the Year award.
Mueller was nominated by the VFW Local Post 664 of Clintonville, and received the award at a ceremony in Milwaukee earlier this year.
“It’s quite the honor,” Mueller told the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette. “I’ve been in EMS for 20 years now, so it’s quite an honor to be recognized as EMT of the Year in the entire state.”
Mueller said she has won awards in the past, including the Star of Life award through the Professional Ambulance Association of Wisconsin in 2008 and a Life Saving Award through Clintonville in 2018, but being named EMT of the year is special.
“It’s interesting getting certain awards for certain things that you do, but this is bigger because it’s the entire state,” she said. “That’s just really cool.”
Until she was notified about the award, she said she didn’t know that she had been nominated for it.
“I was extremely surprised,” Mueller said.
Mueller, who went to high school in Neenah, said she took the EMT-Basic class at Fox Valley Technical College while she was 17 years old and a senior in high school, because it was her goal to become a doctor of some kind.
Becooming an EMT was not on Mueller’s mind until she got into the workforce while attending college.
“I do remember early on in my career being on a call and someone had mentioned on a call, one of the family members, they questioned whether I was old enough to do the job,” Mueller said. “I do remember responding, ‘Do you want me to debate that, or do you want me to take care of your family member?’ I didn’t think I looked that young, but apparently, I did to some people.”
While attending Marquette University in Milwaukee, Mueller worked for two different ambulance services at different times, as well as working in the emergency room at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.
She said it was “crazy” balancing college life, working for an ambulance system and in an emergency room. But working in an emergency room allowed her to see “the other side” once a patient is admitted to a medical center.
“It was interesting seeing both ends, but both of them are intense in their own different ways,” Mueller said.
After graduating from Marquette in 2010 with an education and Spanish degree, Mueller moved back to Appleton and attended paramedic school.
In 2012, she also went back to working in an ER, this time at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton. She worked there until 2019.
Coming to Clintonville
At the urging of one of her friends from school, Mueller took a part-time job with Clintonville Area Ambulance in 2015. She also knew a supervisor at the ambulance service who worked at Fox Valley Technical College while she was teaching there.
Mueller lives in Kaukauna, but said she enjoys working in Clintonville. She said it is also beneficial that she doesn’t personally know all the patients who have to use the ambulance service.
“When I worked at the ER in Appleton, there were a lot of patients that I did know,” she said. “It’s nice to not have a relationship with the people and seeing people at their worst who you already know. Coming to Clintonville, it’s not my community, but I still care about it. It’s not where I live, but I still care about it, and I’ve made a connection there with a lot of people.”
She said she usually works 24-36 hours every other weekend in Clintonville. She works a few more hours during the summer and during holidays when she is not teaching. She has a full-time job teaching elementary students at St. John-Sacred Heart School in Shorewood.
Since 2001, Mueller has been teaching CPR and first aid classes. In 2016 she received an instructor license to teach EMT classes, which she does during the summer months at Fox Valley Technical College.
“A number of my previous EMT-Basic students I taught through Fox Valley Technical College have enjoyed my classes and my personality enough to want to come work with me to start their careers at Clintonville Area Ambulance Service,” Mueller said. “Almost half of the people I work with on the ambulance were students of mine for their EMT-Basic license. It means a lot to have previous students come work with me, and allow me to continue to mentor them and watch them grow in their careers.
“I have watched many of them grow as EMTs, as well as advance their licensure to Advanced EMTs, and even to Paramedics themselves. Others have moved on to pursue nursing or medical school, firefighting, or other careers. To this day, I still have the pleasure of working with students from classes from as long as five years ago. One of my nephews also works for Clintonville Ambulance, as he joined us after receiving his EMT license years ago. I enjoy working with both previous students and even a family member at times when I come to work on the ambulance.”
Mueller said she enjoys EMS work because “you never know how your day is going to go.”
“And you never know how the outcome is going to be,” she said. “I think just the thrill of the unknown is a lot of it.”
Not knowing the outcome of situations can also be stressful, something Mueller said all EMTs have to work through.
“I always teach my students to have a healthy work-life balance,” Mueller said. “Go back, enjoy your family, and know what you do the work for. Know why you’re there. If you don’t enjoy the work, it becomes more difficult and the stress becomes worse if you don’t have a healthy work-life balance.”
For Mueller, the rewards of being an EMT outweigh the stress.
“You don’t get a lot of thanks most of the time, but when you do get it, it’s a really great feeling when somebody does say thank you for what you’ve done,” Mueller said. “It just shows that people really do care and they do appreciate what we do. It just makes you feel good to help somebody, to do something positive for somebody.”
Mueller said she plans to continue doing EMS work for as long as she can.
“I also appreciate teaching and training EMTs and other EMS providers,” she said. “I love teaching first aid and CPR classes.”