EMT Becomes Paramedic, Honors Late Father

New Life EMS Ambulance members.
New Life EMS Ambulance members. Zack Jahnke is pictured in the back row, second from the left. (Photo/Life EMS Ambulance)

Evan Sasiela

Ionia Sentinel-Standard, Mich.


Zack Jahnke’s journey to becoming a paramedic was inspired by the first responders who helped his late father.

“Watching them do what they did influenced me to want to get into this field,” said Jahnke, an emergency medical technician with Ionia Life EMS Ambulance.

Jahnke is one of eight West Michigan residents who graduated as paramedics from Life EMS Ambulance’s education program Thursday, Feb. 18, at its education center, 1279 Cedar St. NE, in Grand Rapids.

“It’s very exciting,” Zack Jahnke said. “The program in total is 17 months and it’s been a very long haul and I’m very excited to finish that and be able to work as a paramedic.”

Jahnke, 25, was born and raised in Lowell. He graduated from Lowell High School in 2014 and joined the city’s fire department in 2016. He initially started college to become a police officer, but decided to put it off once his father, Tom Jahnke, got sick.

Zack Jahnke called 911 while his father was dealing with a variety of heart and health issues. The ambulance personnel who responded to Tom Jahnke inspired his son to take on a different career path.

“I think him getting sick motivated me more to want to help people who were sick like him,” Zack Jahnke said.

Tom Jahnke died in February 2017. Zack Jahnke became an EMT at the Ionia Life EMS Ambulance station in March 2018 — wanting to help people like those who helped his dad.

“My favorite part is being able to help people and be the one people look for when they need help,” he said.

Zack Jahnke started the Life EMS Ambulance paramedic education program in September 2019. Classes took place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The first 14 months involved strictly classwork, while the last three included a 250-hour internship and test. Zack Jahnke described the program as “rigorous,” saying paramedics have a higher scope of practice than an EMT.

“It’s a lot of information and new skills you have to learn in a very short period of time,” Zack Jahnke said.

The biggest takeaway from Zack Jahnke’s paramedic training, he said, is to understand that anything can change in a matter of seconds.

“We’ve had several patients where we’d go on a call, they would seem not so sick and then they would change in minutes and get very critical very quickly,” he said. “Always be on your toes and know that anything can happen.”

Sarah Sturock has served as Zack Jahnke’s partner at Ionia Life EMS Ambulance since August. A paramedic for 23 years, Sturock said working with Zack Jahnke has “been a true honor.”

“His skillset and knowledge base is off the charts for a new paramedic grad — the best I’ve ever seen in my career,” Sturock said. “I’m so ridiculously proud of him. The sky’s the limit for this kiddo.”

Zack Jahnke will officially become a paramedic once he passes the National Registry exams in March and completes training. In the future, Zack Jahnke hopes to become a critical care paramedic (CCP) and one day serve as a flight paramedic.

Life EMS Ambulane offers medical first responder, EMT and paramedic courses. Those interested can visit: lifeems.com/education-center.

“We have plenty of educational opportunities and most definitely employment opportunities as well once you’re completed with the courses,” said Tim Newton, Life EMS Ambulance director of education.

— Contact reporter Evan Sasiela at esasiela@sentinel-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter @SalsaEvan.


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