“It’s been a lot of mixed emotions, but it’s time,” said Stokes County EMS Director Greg Collins.
Collins announced his retirement after working 36 years with the county’s emergency medical system and serving in the director position since January of 2013.
Since then, he’s overseen emergency medical care to more than 47,000 citizens of Stokes County 24 hours a day from base locations in Danbury, Lawsonville, King and Walnut Cove, along with the county’s five fully equipped, paramedic-staffed ambulances and three quick response vehicles.
Collins grew up planning to follow in the footsteps of his parents, both retired Stokes County educators.
“I went to Appalachian with thoughts that I was going to be a teacher because that’s what I’d known, but realized after a year or so, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Funny thing is, I’ve been teaching ever since just in a different way,” he said with laugh.
Today, a large majority of the county’s EMS is made up of employees with less than five years of experience.
“The young people coming out now are so smart and tech savvy, but they’ll tell you it’s a job that requires experience. The more you learn and the more time you put into it, the better you become. There are some things you’ll only see once or twice in your career, but you’ll need to know it again in 10 or 15 years,” he said.
Collins is happy to share what he’s learned in the past three decades.
“I love teaching these young guys. If you’re the only one who has the knowledge you’re not doing your job. You’ve got to prepare the next generation,” he said.
Much has changed since Collins came on in 1981.
“The technology aspect has been a great benefit to the county. One of the biggest things we’re able to do now that we weren’t years ago is diagnose heart attacks. If you had a heart attack right now, we could transmit the EKG and pick up the phone or radio and tell someone what’s happening. They’d be sitting there ready and we’re able to bypass the emergency room many times.”
In the near future, Collins hopes the county will find a way to fund a sixth ambulance.
“Our call volume has gone up every year,” he said. “It seems as if everyone uses an ambulance now, except sometimes the people who need it most. Transportation is also an issue because many don’t have a reliable vehicle. There’s also more sick people and our general health as a population has declined, probably for our lack of physical activity.”
Collins last day is slated for this Monday, July 31. Brian Booe will be Stokes County’s new EMS Director beginning the following day.
“Brian is very knowledgeable and I believe he’s going to do a tremendous job.”
Collins said he’ll still be around.
“My dad is 82-years-old now and I look forward to spending some time with him. I’ve been offered a few jobs, but we’ll see. I plan on spending some time on our farm,” he said.
While reflecting on his last week at work, Collins said retirement is bittersweet.
“You think it’ll never get here, until it does,” he said. “When I started with EMS the pay was $3.35 an hour. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.