Interview with student Craig Donaldson

by Jessica Young and Vicki Heisser  |   

Craig Donaldson has 30 years of EMS experience. This includes being a fire captain, assistant fire chief, and paramedic. He has lived in Alaska for 12 years. Before moving to Valdez, he and his partner Terri lived in Nome, where he worked as a flight paramedic. Craig recalls a medevac from a remote village in which he did CPR on a woman for 6 hours. He states, “Transport times were two hours, at least, which made it challenging.” After suffering spinal injuries, he found it difficult to find employment because he was no longer able to pass physicals. It was then that he knew he had to change careers.

He is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in occupational health and safety with a minor in counseling. Prince William Sound College (PWSC) is providing classes for him to earn an associate degree, which will lead to a bachelor’s from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Craig would like to continue in a profession of helping others because he himself has struggled with his own set backs, including being a recovering alcoholic and managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), from a very active career of responding to thousands of calls and sustaining physical injuries.

Craig currently teaches EMS classes and wants to continue teaching. He tries to emphasize the importance of the training to his students because he knows that they could save someone’s life one day with this knowledge. Craig explains, “When I first got into the fire service, I had no idea what I was getting into… I was issued gear and let loose and didn’t know what to do, so I try to prepare students in the classroom so that they don’t feel scared…knowledge conquers a lot of fear.”

Craig explained that he has gone to large universities in the past and at PWSC the small campus makes it easy to make personal connections and find a supportive environment. He states, “This is the most supportive place I have been…I can walk into anyone’s office, such as Heidi [the academic advisor], and be able to ask a question and get an answer right away…or if they aren’t there they will track you down and follow up. There is always coffee on, too.”

His advice for other students: “Always carry a pocket knife… and take care of your future. If you’re not sure whether or not you want to stay in school, just stay in it because you won’t always be young and able to be active.”