Here at the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, we’ve represented thousands of personal injury and auto accident victims throughout South Georgia and across the Southeast for over 50 years. Many of these accident survivors owe their very health and lives to first responders.
The critical role police officers, paramedics, firefighters and other first responders play in our communities has been particularly highlighted recently in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the risks to their own personal safety and health, these brave men and women work tirelessly to protect everyday folks like us—and we are so grateful for their service.
As a way to honor and recognize these courageous individuals, we chose to focus our first-ever Scholarship Essay Contest for college students on the following prompt question:
How have the roles of first responders changed since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic? How may this impact their roles in the future?
While we were given the difficult task of selecting just 1 winner of our $1,000 scholarship, we received many entries from students all over the country that we also wanted to share—particularly with first responders in need of some encouragement and motivation.
So without further ado, here are snippets of what students had to say, in their own words.
Essay question: How have the roles of first responders changed since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic? How may this impact their roles in the future?
Alejandro P., University of Texas at San Antonio
“Being a first responder myself, I feel like our roles have changed dramatically since the pandemic. Through my four years of working at a hospital, as a nurse assistant, I had never had to choose between exposing myself and my family to a deadly virus or being on the floor saving lives. Without a doubt I chose to be at the hospital even though my entire family was against the idea of me going back to work.
I had decided that I would rather die knowing that I had pursued my through passion of helping those in need than just stepping aside in a time of need…
Since the pandemic started, we have had to sacrifice and make changes to our lives outside of work like daily activities, family, social life… We are not only risking our own life but the lives we are close to. Our lives have gone from having a life outside of work to not having one. Every hour of every day has gone towards fighting in the war against this virus. It also has affected us not only physically but mentally…”
Karli C., Savannah College of Art & Design:
“I honestly do not think the roles of first responders have changed since the outbreak of COVID-19. These amazing and selfless people have always been tasked with the job of protecting and saving lives, a job which they now have continued to do with a greater risk to themselves…
While I do not believe their roles have changed, I do believe that many other things have. For instance, due to COVID, first responders are now getting the recognition they deserve because people are realizing that we would not be better off without them.”
Olivia H., Walden University:
“People in the front lines during this pandemic are experiencing stress, anxiety, and even depression. The loneliness from having to be away from the family to keep them safe is leading more people to be depressed. The anxiety that comes with being around people that are COVID-19 positive takes a large toll on individuals’ mental state. Often people in other professions forget to realize that our first responders are people too, and need to be cared for from time to time. Especially in these hard times, if they are not mentally and physically well we cannot expect them to care for others properly.”
“If we expect them to put their lives on the line every day, we need to start stepping up and showing them how much they are respected for their work.”
Daniel L., Florida State University:
“Police are always at risk due to the violence they encounter on the job, but it can be argued that there is more danger in fighting Covid-19. Their role has become a balancing act of enforcing social distancing practices among the public while attempting to avoid any contact as well. Juggling the public’s health and safety now encompasses the precautions established because of Covid-19.”
Alesia H., State University of New York at Buffalo:
“First responders, doctors, nurses and so many other essential workers have shown their bravery through the sacrifices they are making, They have been made to put their own lives at risk in an attempt to help the poor souls afflicted with COVID-19, proving that they make up a large part of the backbone of our society.
After seeing the impact they have made on society these past few months, it is needless to say that they deserve so much more… I know that from now on, I will look at these essential workers in a different light, a much more appreciative one… It wasn’t until 2020 that we truly garnered a new understanding of what it means to be essential.”
Sawyer B., Linn-Benton Community College:
“Becoming a part of the emergency response personnel in 2020 means you are risking the lives of not just the professional, but the lives of the people in their household and in close contact with them. Perhaps, an elderly grandparent or a young child or children.
There will be an increase in demand for jobs like these, with a risk of coming into close contact with many people every day. They’re no longer saving lives while risking their own, instead, they are saving lives and risking the lives of themselves and their families.”
Andrew P., Anne Arundel Community College:
“First responders are asked and required to put their lives in danger for the cost of public safety. This is indeed noble, but unfortunately, the mindset of saving others may lead to the decline of self-care… In a previous, non-COVID lifetime, first responders may have shown up to work with a cold or bad allergies. A firefighter can still put out fires. A police officer can still patrol the streets. However, this is no longer the case for the foreseeable future.
…first responders are working longer hours, variable schedules, and even avoiding contact with their families. As we as a society and a community shift towards a new normal, I think we will need to prioritize the healthcare options of our first responders with some unique features that have never been needed or seen.”
Lenda L., Point Loma Nazarene University:
“Since the coronavirus pandemic, those on the front lines have been impacted severely in the workplace. This could lead to an impact in their roles in the future by a decline in people pursuing these careers. First of all, the roles of the first responders have widened since the COVID19 outbreak as now they are focused on their traditional job roles as well as helping their communities during the pandemic. This has led to an increase in stress in their roles.
This increase in stress and demand has created a lot of pressure on the first responders and the decrease in resources has led to safety and health concerns. These issues could lead to a decline in first responders’ roles in the future as fewer people might be willing to take the risks that come with being a first responder.”
Yaralyn M., University of Texas at San Antonio:
“Although before the pandemic, first responders were respected, I believe now that they are appreciated greater than ever for all the sacrifices they make to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Cody S., Auburn University:
“My dad has a friend who worked as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for the Lifeguard Ambulance in Birmingham and the Sylacauga Ambulance services. She was happy to answer some questions about how COVID-19 has affected how she had to do her job. Some of her duties consist of driving, patient assessment, putting patients on heart monitors and blood pressure cuffs, providing CPR, transporting dialysis patients, as well as transporting patients from the hospital to another hospital or back to their home.
First responders are having to put on personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks before assessing the patient whereas, before the COVID-19 outbreak, they could wait until basic questions and patient assessment to put on gloves or other protective gear. Having to put gloves on before touching the patient makes it difficult to feel the patient’s body temperature, which is crucial information to know to discern if the increased temperature is due to a fever or a physical issue causing the skin itself to be inflamed. Having to wear masks makes it more difficult for some patients who may have impaired hearing to fully hear and understand what first responders may be asking them, and if a patient does not understand the first responders it could cause them to give inaccurate information, therefore causing a delay in proper care.
COVID-19 has impacted our entire nation, but our healthcare workers and first responders seem to have been impacted the most due to a rise in call volume, certain people being asked to go above and beyond what they may feel they are capable of, and also putting their loved ones at risk of illness; some who could very well lose their lives if they were to ever contract the COVID-19 virus.”
Christina P., Xavier University of Louisiana:
“I have an aunt who had a brain aneurysm. During this time first responders had to ask a plethora of questions before sending help. This now poses the question if my aunt’s chances of survival would have been increased if the EMT was sent immediately and questioned later… In this scenario, my family thought it would be more efficient to drive to the hospital rather than waiting for EMT.
Also, the role of first responders has become so difficult for the simple reason that the United States does not have adequate resources to supply our nurses, doctors, or responders. If we are sending these individuals out to save lives while simultaneously not protecting theirs, who will be left to help those in need?”
Jessica Z., University of Massachusetts Amherst:
“While most of us have been directed to shelter-in-place when the number of cases skyrocketed, policies are continually being updated for first responders in many states to meet the critical needs of public safety in response to COVID-19. Take EMS professionals for example, besides having to do their original job, they also take on expanded roles including triage, diagnosis, on-scene treatment, communication, evacuation, etc. This is true for first responders in most states because of the lack of protection supplies and safety concerns for everyone. However, this adds extra workload to first responders whose job was already challenging to begin with.
Despite the enormous hardship and extreme danger, first responders selflessly perform life-serving service with courage and compassion. Besides physically helping our citizens, first responders also heal us mentally by giving us hope from their heroic acts we see on TV as most of us stayed home for months feeling helpless.”
Emma C., Grand Canyon University:
“The front door to a firehouse or police station was always open, whether it be for a family visit or for a safe-space surrender. Now we see the doors locked with “appointment only” signs, thus taking away the community aspect of what it means to be a first responder. Much of first responder work is community outreach and relationship building. But the unfortunate reality is that this communal environment may never be the same again.”
“There should be a heightened sense of awareness and respect, as well as further training and outreach programs to protect our local heroes.”
Richard W., University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign:
“I recently listened to an interview with an EMS worker in New York that was conducted during the height of the pandemic surge happening in New York City. He described the stress of responding to large amounts of Covid positive cases. He recalled the hopelessness of seeing literally dozens of cardiac arrest patients in a single shift, and of being continually exposed to the virus while helping these people and their families.
For many, this pandemic has illuminated the importance of first responders in a way that we had previously been blind to. With such an unprecedented nationwide medical crisis, even the most highly trained first responders have had to adapt in ways that no one could have expected.
It is likely that many non-medical first responders will go back to not wearing masks or reduce the amount of sanitation practices employed. One thing that will certainly remain though, is the amount of tragedy these workers have witnessed.”
Kimberly A., Concordia University Irvine:
“When we are children, we always hear stories about superheroes saving the world, well now our superheroes aren’t people in capes and masks but men and women on the frontlines working harder than ever to save us from an unexpected virus.”
“The role of first responders has become more than we could ever imagine. As someone who will be seeking a nursing degree, I strongly believe that the role of first responders will never be the same after the pandemic. They have set the example of what it means to do everything you can to save a life, and there is no way we can do anything less than them. Out of respect and gratitude for those who are putting everything on the line so that others can be reunited with their family and friends, I believe that my future role as a nurse must not fall short of that expectation.”
Malika N., University of California San Diego:
“Doctors, nurses, staff, and EMTs all uphold their oath to serve and protect those that are sick. However, COVID is known for being incredibly contagious and transferable through just under 6 feet of distance. This means that they are likely to get the virus, despite taking precautions with masks and frequent washing hands. Their roles have also become high in demand with their colleagues quarantining or getting sick themselves, unusual high amounts of hours, ever changing recommendations from medical administration and local hospital personnel, and the fear of infecting loved ones therefore taking even more precaution at home. First responders have sacrificed their lives to curb this pandemic risking themselves even though there has not been an end to it yet.
I am also very passionate about working in the medical field and although many others my age probably felt discouraged with the risks of working on the front lines, I am ready to risk my health for the benefit of helping those that need me… Our healthcare workers’ roles are essential and they will continue to be in the future.”
Lindsey M., University of Florida:
“With increased 911 calls since the start of COVID-19, front line workers have been serving around the clock. Because of the spiral of stress that is now weighing on our front line heroes, it is vital that we, as a society, support in any way we can. Before COVID-19, we did not have the awareness of how to handle and help our first responders fight against this large of a threat. Now and in the future, we must continue to adapt and support one another to allow our emergency response teams to keep doing an incredible job.”
Emily M., Southern Nazarene University:
“While being a first responder has always been what I would consider a dangerous job, it is far more so now. First responders should already be highly respected but now that they are working with and saving people during a globe pandemic I think they have earned so much more respect. They worked around the clock before we knew how COVID-19 was being spread, and they continue to do so now even though they could also contract this terrible virus.
“During this uncertain time, doctors and first responders have put themselves in danger in order to save others. By putting others first they have shown great humility and bravery.”
Many first responders are working very long days with little time off and their time on the clock is spent in many layers of personal protection equipment. I cannot imagine being a nurse and working twelve to fourteen-hour shifts while wearing a surgical level facemask and other layers of personal protection equipment. As a college student, I sometimes struggle to wear one in class while I’m sitting still.”
Thanks for participating!
In addition to joining the students above in thanking the brave first responders who have continued to serve their communities throughout the pandemic despite personal risk and danger, we’d also like to extend our sincere appreciation to the many students who participated in our first-ever essay contest. It touched our hearts to hear how first responders were respected and cherished by so many young folks, and we’re positive that in this difficult and trying time these sentiments are meaningful and motivating to first responders as well.
Did you miss this essay contest, or want another shot at the scholarship prize?
Consider participating in our next essay contest for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship. If you’re enrolled in an American college or university, we invite you to visit our Scholarship page to stay updated on our next essay contest and submit your entry.