Merriam-Webster dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” For Katherine Wollenberg, firefighter/paramedic for the UConn Fire Department, courage means being brave, sometimes requiring you to put on a brave face when you are scared or unsure, standing up for what you believe even when those around you may not agree, and standing up for those that may not have a strong voice or a voice at all.
Wollenberg grew up on a small farm in Farmington and played Division I field hockey on a full scholarship at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. She has been a firefighter/paramedic for the UConn Fire Department since February of 2019; however, she has been involved in the fire service as a volunteer firefighter/EMT since 2010. In her free time, she continues to coach and officiate high school field hockey.
In her role as a firefighter/paramedic, she responds to emergencies on and off campus, provides high-level advanced life support medical care, fire protection, hazardous materials, assists with and performs inspections on campus, and more.
Courage means the ability to do something difficult even when there’s a risk. As a firefighter/paramedic, the job is full of risks. “From training, responding to calls, showing up on scenes, and putting ourselves into positions and situations that most people run away from or out of, it takes a unique, brave, courageous type of person to want to do what we do. Firefighters must have the courage to face a multitude of risks in order to save lives and protect the communities that they serve and respond to. Our unique courage allows us to willingly risk our own lives so that others can be saved,” says Wollenberg.
When it comes to being a firefighter/paramedic, she loves that she has the ability to work with people who are quite possibly having the worst day of their life. Whether they are in need of emergency medical care, were involved in a car accident, or their house was on fire, knowing that she can be there to help even the slightest bit is the best feeling.
“As a female in a male predominate field, I believe that it takes an even more unique, courageous, and outspoken female to make it,” says Wollenberg. “Being strong, ambitious, competitive, while also maintaining patience, and flexibility is very important. “
Each call Wollenberg has been on has shown her how to be brave and made her a better, stronger, more resilient person. Some have left a lasting impact on her that temporarily knocked her down and made her take a few steps backwards before moving on, but at the end of the day she doesn’t regret any of these moments or experiences as they have made her a better person, better paramedic, and better firefighter.
Wollenberg sees UConn Health as full of individuals that are courageous and truly embody the word courage. Working in the environment at UConn Health whether in patient care, research, education, or elsewhere takes a very special person, just like being a firefighter/paramedic does.
Health care professionals require so much courage to care for the sickest of patients and to go from one patient’s room to another without hesitation, putting their personal feelings and emotions aside to provide the best care possible is truly unique, and special.
All those that work in research spend incredible amounts of time studying and researching different types of diseases, areas of healthcare, medications/vaccinations. Our researchers are courageous individuals that aren’t afraid to break barriers and question the norm in healthcare research.
Our housekeeping staff are some of the most hardworking courageous employees that we have. These people go in and out of rooms to clean and sanitize rooms regardless of that happened in them. They haven’t studied medicine, yet they are hand in hand with those that do. They still see things that the average person doesn’t, are around some of the sickest patients, and still continue to go about their days like nothing’s wrong.
“UConn Health is full of courageous, inspiring, and truly incredible people no matter what their job is here,” says Wollenberg. “Working for UConn is a great experience, and is by far, hands down, the most supportive and rewarding work communities that I have even been a part of. I love the environment, culture, people.”