Carl Craigle celebrates 20 years as ambulance service chief at Platte Valley
When Carl Craigle was just 14 years old, he was standing on a street corner with some friends across the street from a fire station in a small town outside of Philadelphia. Someone from the fire station walked across the street, grabbed Carl and told him to come with him, then told his friends to stay put. Carl followed the man back to the fire station and never looked back.
Years later, he realized that “chance encounter” was likely a favor to his parents to keep him out of trouble as a teenager. What he didn’t know at the time was that he was entering into his now 38-year-long career in EMS. Though he fell into the role by accident, it has become his life-long passion.
Carl began answering ambulance calls at 15 years old. He became an EMT at the age of 16 and by 19 he was a paramedic.
Two decades ago, he was working as a paramedic supervisor in Commerce City when a friend told him about a job opening for ambulance service chief at Platte Valley Medical Center. He didn’t think he’d get the job, but 20 years later, he’s still here and still loves every minute of it.
As he celebrates his 20th anniversary in the Platte Valley family, he’s been able to reminisce on his long career.
“I’ve been lucky since day one,” said Carl. “I’ve been surrounded by talented people who really drive the vision of this place. I’ve had the pleasure of watching the vast majority of my team come in at entry level and then see them grow from EMT to paramedic and all the way up to battalion chief.”
Though Carl isn’t a front-line paramedic anymore, he leads and oversees the department’s budget, strategic planning, marketing, accreditation processes, training and education, billing and payroll.
“Working at Platte Valley has truly been a humbling experience, he said. “The people here are strong and they are staunch patient advocates. I’ve never worked at a place where the people take care of patients like they do here. We have a person-centered focus, meaning we don’t just see you as a patient. We see you as a person. It’s a huge privilege to be part of their healing journey.”
Carl oversees and leads his department of 53 people. “I’m old, slow and disorganized,” he said with a laugh. “I watch my people run circles around me and that’s okay. I miss being a front-line paramedic but my focus has to be on different things now. I have to take a step back and keep my arms around a 15,000 foot view. I get to watch my team do their thing with excitement and creativity. They have to think around corners to do their job and to do it well. I try to give them the tools they need and then I get out of their way.”
Carl finds the most challenging part of his job to be politics. He admits he didn’t have a lot of diplomacy skills when he first came on board as a rookie EMT, but said he’s had great teachers that have helped him along the way.
“John Hicks, the previous CEO, was patient with me and was a great guide in teaching me the art of diplomacy,” said Carl. “Jamie Campbell, our new president, is awesome. She’s really setting the place on fire, figurative speaking.”
Carl’s advice to new EMS professionals coming into the industry is to have balance and be patient. He explained that there’s a great deal of excitement and lore around emergency services that television has you think is reality when it’s not.
“You’re not dodging bullets and swinging from ropes like you see on TV,” he said. “In reality it’s quiet. It’s humble. It’s taking care of people. When you first enter, you want to be part of the action, so you put your everything into it. You work long hours and miss family events. It’s important to strike a balance between work and family and to stay on top of your mental, physical and emotional health or this job will chew you to pieces.”
Carl is grateful to still be serving the community. “This job means the world to me,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of people who stay in top leadership positions for this long. I want to go out on a high note and I want to leave the place in a better state than when I found it. Many leaders stay too long and become stagnant instead of continuing to move the organization forward.”
Still, Carl is only 52, and retirement isn’t anywhere in his near future.
“I want to make sure I’m still making a difference,” said Carl. “I ask myself if I’m still relevant and helpful so I know when it’s time for me to step back and let new leaders step into my role.”