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Satkus Aims to Spark Interest among Women for Fire Service Careers

Gillian Satkus

In celebration of Women’s History Month, St. Louis Community College is spotlighting outstanding women who are breaking down barriers and excelling in their lives and careers. Gillian Satkus, a 1999 graduate of STLCC, is one of these women. 

Gillian SatkusGillian Satkus has spent more than two decades saving lives and serving her community as a firefighter/paramedic with the Metro West Fire Protection District. As one of only a handful of females in this role, she’s aware of the stigma associated with women in the fire service. 

Despite this, she’s proud to do a job that she loves.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to work in the medical field,” she said. “In high school, I completed a career shadowing day at Metro West. That experience sparked my interest in becoming a first responder.”

Along with volunteering for the department after high school, Satkus turned to St. Louis Community College to train for her career. She began by earning a certificate of specialization in emergency medical technology at Meramec. She then completed an associate in applied science degree in paramedic technology at Forest Park. As part of this program, she interned at Mercy (formerly St. John’s) and took classes at STLCC’s West County Education Center, which is now Wildwood. 

“I received a great education at STLCC,” Satkus said. “That experience helped prepare me to take the next step in my career.”

Gillian Satkus and kidsAfter earning her EMT and paramedic licenses, Satkus spent a few years sharpening her skills at a local hospital and ambulance district. In 2001, she joined Metro West as a firefighter/paramedic. With this role, she went on to complete two firefighting certifications through the St. Louis Fire Academy.

“Women have a lot to offer on the job,” she said. “On the emergency medicine side, we bring a different level of compassion that helps comfort patients in need. On a fire scene, we’re able to lend a different point of view because of the way we think.” 

Although the number of female firefighters in the United States remains relatively low, Satkus is doing her part to change that. 

For the past six years, she’s volunteered with Camp Fury STL. Offered through the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, this program allows girls to train alongside local firefighters and law enforcement personnel to learn a variety of first responder skills.

"It’s wonderful to give back to the community and inspire the next generation of female first responders,” she said. “On a personal note, I’ve gained confidence through this program because it’s allowed me to connect with other women in the field and share our experiences.”

Outside of work, Satkus is a wife and a mother. Twelve years ago, she became the first firefighter/paramedic at Metro West to have a baby. Given the physical demands of her job, accommodations had to be made. 

Gillian Satkus and colleagues“Looking back, it was definitely a challenging time trying to manage my health while fulfilling the responsibilities of being a firefighter/paramedic, but we figured it out,” she said. “My experience helped create processes that have since made things better for other firefighter/paramedics who have welcomed children of their own.”

When asked how she achieves work-life balance, Satkus acknowledged the support she receives at home.

“It’s a dynamic situation given the nature of the job, but I have an amazing husband, Kevin, who helps lessen the stress,” she said. “He takes the lead when I’m working my 48-hour shifts. This partnership has allowed me to continue doing a job that love.”

For other women who are considering a similar path, Satkus offered the following advice:

“Women in this field are breaking barriers every day,” she said. “If you’re interested in becoming a first responder, do the work. Keep your head down. Listen and learn. As your confidence grows, speak up and stand up. If you have the skills, you’ll be an equal match.”

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