Owensboro firefighter Jake Martin has a heart for service and for educating others. The Dec. 5 issue of the Owensboro Community & Technical College (OCTC) Alumni Focus featured Martin, who is a firefighter with the Owensboro Fire Department, a nurse at Owensboro Health and an adjunct clinical instructor at OCTC. The short feature acknowledged Martin for being “an example to us all that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Martin’s work ethic and love of service comes naturally, as his grandfather Chief Randall Martin gave 37 years of his life in service to the Owensboro Fire Department.
“He got on at the fire department in ‘53 and retired in ‘90, so we were always around it,” Jake said. “He was always an extremely hard worker, but he always had a soft spot for his grandkids.”
Jake, the oldest of five children, said he and each of his siblings have dedicated their lives to serving the community, with his sisters working in education and nursing, respectively. He said his grandfather kept his fire gear in the basement, so he and his brothers, who work as Henderson County firefighters, were naturally drawn to it.
“It says something about my parents when all five kids go into service to our community,” Jake said. “My uncle served and both of my brothers followed in his [my grandfather’s] footsteps. It just kind of runs in the blood — it’s part of our family.”
Like most young boys, Jake said he always wanted to be a firefighter, but found himself working construction for his father after high school. He then went to his grandfather for advice and he suggested Jake take a deeper look into firefighting as a career.
“Once I started, I fell in love with it,” Jake said. “I’ve been doing it for 15 years now, and I still look forward to going in every single day.”
Jake said things have changed a lot since he first came on at OFD 15 years ago. He said the fire station did not initially go out on every medical run, but only to calls for cardiac arrests and car accidents. But once the program evolved and firefighters went through EMT training, Jake said he really found himself starting to enjoy medical runs, which eventually lead to his call to nursing.
“It all started at the fire department when you start looking for something to do on your days off,” Jake said. “Then you go the nursing route and you see what else is out there. Once I got into nursing, I knew it was something I wanted to do and without the fire department I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
In order to attend school, work as a behavioral health nurse and clinical instructor and average 56-72 hours a week at the fire station, Jake said he has relied heavily on the support of his wife and fellow firefighters. When he began working on his Associate of Applied Science in nursing, Jake and his wife Tori had two children at home. Now a father of four, Jake holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Western Kentucky University and is currently working on his MSN through Northern Kentucky University.
“I have a very supportive wife,” Jake said. “She would even help me study at night when she got the kids down. And every single one of my officers — without their support — it wouldn’t have been possible.”
When asked if his firefighting experience had helped him to be better prepared for nursing school, Jake said, while it had, he found just the opposite to be true.
“The firefighting is important because you’ve already got some of that medical experience, but going through nursing school has helped me to become a much better firefighter,” Jake said. “You get to see the whole picture from one end to the other, rather than one little slice — beginning when you meet them in the field, pick them up and treat them in the hospital. That has helped me more than anything.”
According to Jake, on several occasions, he has treated a patient in the field who he would later cross paths with in the hospital. While the reciprocal relationship between nursing and firefighting has been beneficial, Jake’s long term goal is to earn his PhD and becoming a nurse researcher in order to help other first responders after he retires from the fire department.
“What’s becoming big right now is depression and anxiety and a high suicide rate amongst firefighters and first responders,” Jake said. “We are starting to realize that we need to take care of these people that take care of us. I’ve been doing it for 15 years and I’ve seen some stuff that people don’t realize. If we can start changing that stigma — that it’s OK to get help — it’s about time we need to start changing that.”