Robyn Michelle Asher is a hero of heroes, a behind-the-scenes professional in the world of emergency services and first responders. To simply say her job is critical does not do it justice. Not at all.
Asher is the professional development manager for Priority Ambulance of East Tennessee. She trains, trains and trains some more … and has been doing so since 1999, when she began conducting paramedic field training for Rural Metro, where she worked for 20 years.
When former Rural Metro executive Rob Webb left Rural Metro in 2014 to take over as Priority’s vice president of operations in Tennessee, he asked Asher to come on board and head up the company’s training and professional development. She was all in.
Today, Priority is in three counties – Knox, Loudon and Blount. Priority is the emergency ambulance service in Loudon County with six ambulances and 24 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. It handles non-emergency calls with 20 ambulances and 75 or so EMTs in Knox and Blount counties.
Every Priority EMT and paramedic has been trained by Asher. During her career, she says, she has trained more than 500 EMTs and paramedics working in East Tennessee today.
Asher was reared in South Knoxville, a Candy Striper at the old Baptist Hospital. “My mom asked me when I was 5 or 6 years old what I wanted to do, and I remember telling her I wanted to take care of those who were sick, hurt or runned over,” she recalls.
She is a graduate of what was then Doyle High School, where she played softball and was a majorette for the band. Asher got involved in competitive twirling and in her senior year was named “Miss Majorette of Tennessee.”
Asher is 49 now, the mother of two teens, and she dearly loves her work. “I love working and I’d go insane if I was retired. But there are times when I need about 15 minutes of quiet time, but outside of that this work is what I love to do,” she says.
Her work philosophy is powerful. “If I am not doing my very best, it may be my son or daughter or a friend who’s hurt and needs us out there. If I slack up in training it could end up being really bad for someone.”
She has a 98 percent pass rate in her classes.
“Robyn is very committed to her training, and I have sat in many of her classes and she’s the best I have ever seen,” Webb says. “She keeps everyone’s attention with what she shares and how she does it. She can be amusing and you don’t get bored with her teaching. Every person leaves with very positive comments on their evaluations.”
In 1993 she earned her Paramedic Certificate at Roane State Community College and in 2002 her Critical Care Paramedic Certificate from the University of Maryland. She also graduated from Roane State (magna cum laude) with an associate degree in applied sciences.
Her career began in 1993 in Campbell County. In 1994 she joined Rural Metro as a paramedic “on a truck” – her term for an ambulance. She rose to Paramedic Field Training Officer and for 12 years was Rural Metro’s Paramedic Supervisor. From 2006 to 2010 she was its professional development coordinator over multiple counties. Her last year of going on calls full-time in a truck was 2010. From time to time she still goes on calls.
Here is what she does day to day as Priority’s professional development manager:
- Coordinates all training opportunities for employees and the community
- Maintains LP12 and LP15 heart monitors and Lifenet data systems
- Maintains e-PCR technologies
- Manages employee clinical files and completes state audits
- Member of Corporate Compliance Committee
Asher also spends time doing CPR and first-aid training for nurses at nursing homes, at assisted-living facilities, at churches – including the use of AEDs (automated external defibrillators) and in preschool settings. How often does she do this? “A lot,” was her answer.
She’s very busy on weekends as the Health and Safety Officer of the East Tennessee Riding Club, and she maintains – and manages approximately 40 children on Saturdays at – the Anderson County 4H Horse Club. Its barn just happens to be in the backyard of her Oak Ridge home. She has four Tennessee Walking Horses as well, but not the show-competition Tennessee Walkers. “They’re my babies,” she says.
In classes, she teaches documentation, driving courses, HIPAA regulations, harassment in the workplace, advanced cardiac life support, pre-hospital trauma life support and pediatric care.
At an emergency, be it a vehicle crash, a shooting or an accident of most any kind, here’s what she teaches her students: “Stay calm and look at the person and calm them down, build trust, let them know that they can help you by answering questions, get their blood pressure down and do your job.”
Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday on KnoxTNToday, and if you have suggestions about a first responder/emergency-services professional we should feature, email Tom King.