New EMS coordinator in WL

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Joan Betthauser answers the phone, does billing, sets up training, oversees quality control and does a variety of other odd jobs around the West Liberty Fire Department.

She's the quiet type, much preferring not to talk about herself. This actually works to your advantage, because if you see Betthauser, she may just be saving your life.

Betthauser is the Emergency Medical Service Coordinator for West Liberty, a position she's held since April of 2012. When duty calls, she hops in the back of an ambulance to provide emergency medical attention.

"We average around 400 calls per year," she said, "It's kind of hit or miss though, some weeks are busier than others."

While she does a lot of the secretarial work at the station, her first priority is tending to accident and medical victims as they're driven to the emergency room.

It's a career that's been in her deck of cards for a long time now.

She started as a volunteer with her husband on the McGregor Rescue Squad where she spent a good nine years helping the people of the small Iowan community.

Afterward, Betthauser trained to be a paramedic for a year and got on full-time in the position in West Union, Iowa.

Unfortunately, her husband died in 2009. She moved to West Liberty and worked for a MidWest ambulance out of Grinnell. During that time she went to a paramedic specialist class.

That's when she was hired by West Liberty, where she works Monday through Friday, and the weekends, if needed.

"I like the small town, and the community has treated me very well," she said. "It's rewarding work and I like to help people."

She and the department not only cover West Liberty, but Atalissa, Nichols and parts of West Branch. As a community of small towns, the help is spread across the land.

And her job in the back of the ambulance is always testing her; after all, each case is a new person and a new problem.

"It's always challenging, because you have to always think on your toes," Betthauser said. "The majority of emergencies range from cardio to respiratory distress to trauma, but you never know what's next."

While difficult, she plans to be involved with emergency services for the rest of her life.

"It's a good field to get into, and can be very rewarding," she said. "But it can also be very demanding. I plan to keep with it until I can't do it anymore."
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