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In-Depth Look: Athletic Trainer for County Fire and Rescue Services

Kelsey Tanler, DAT, LAT, ATC is an Athletic Trainer (AT) and Health and Injury Prevention Manager for Montgomery County Government and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services. She has been a certified AT since 2019.

Describe your setting:

I am contracted through Concentra to provide athletic training services to both the fire department (career and volunteer members) and the county government. My services to fire and rescue include injury evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation while also providing injury preventative education, functional screenings, job analyses, and health and wellness support.

Describe your typical day:

Each day is always different, but my typical day is spent having clinic time available for firefighters to come on or off shift for injury evaluation, treatment, and/or rehabilitative exercise. I also dedicate time to our recruit academy to run an active recovery day once a week focused around preparing our recruits for the demands of their future careers while also preventing common injuries seen in the fire academy. I provide injury care and evaluation to our recruits and run their rehab programs post-injury when they return to full duty.

With the free time I have not at our recruit academy or holding clinic time, I schedule regular ride along experiences to continue to learn more about the unique challenges that my firefighters and rescuers face both physically and mentally while on the job. I also will have requests to visit crews at their station to provide educational talks on injury prevention, sleep health, or take them through the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) test to learn more about areas they could focus on to prevent future injury or dysfunction.

What do you like about your position? What motivates you?

I love the people I get to serve in the fire service. I have an immense amount of respect for those that work in public safety having grown up in a family of police and firefighters. Everyone is like family to me and makes everyday fun and exciting. I also love that I get the opportunity to experience the job of a firefighter and rescuer by riding along and attending specialized training. I’ve suited up and entered a live burn with our recruit academy, attended swift water rescue training on the Potomac River, participated in bomb squad training, completed a 24-hour ride along at our busiest station in the county, and much more once in a lifetime experiences.

My biggest motivation is knowing that the services I provide as an AT has a direct impact on how a firefighter and rescuer performs on a call. Knowing that my actions can directly affect how a paramedic performs on a code, how a firefighter operates during a structure fire, or how a swift water rescuer is able to perform a water rescue are some of the many motivators I have in this position. Serving those that serve others is something that makes me proud.

What is your greatest achievement as an Athletic Trainer?

My greatest achievement was completing my Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) degree. While completing my DAT, I worked full-time in the secondary school setting and got through the COVID-19 pandemic all while balancing research studies, coursework and attending virtual classes. Whenever I am facing a challenge in my career, I always think back to this achievement and know that I can do anything through hard work and determination.

What advice do you have about your practice setting for a young AT looking at this setting?

Learn as much as you can about public safety by riding along with police and fire departments! I started my position with only experience working with law enforcement, not fire and rescue. I learned everything I could about fire and rescue by riding along with all the different units (truck, engine, medic unit, ambulance, EMS duty officers, battalion chiefs) and picking up on the demands of the job to better understand how I could serve them as an AT. I learned to speak their language and understand their jobs and translated that into my practice.

I encourage anyone that is interested in the public safety setting to join the Public Safety Athletic Trainers’ Society. It’s a great resource for more information on the setting, continuing education opportunities centered around public safety topics, and more!

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