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Staff Spotlight: Jamie Spear

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Emergency Clinician, Psychiatric Medical Team

Long Island native Jamie Spear had no idea that his dream job, and dream life, waited for him just a couple hundred miles north in southern Vermont.

Jamie studied sound design and lighting at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and then worked in the television and theatre world, including tour stints with bands and occasional Broadway shows. When he wasn’t behind the scenes on set, he worked as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and firefighter, both in volunteer and paid positions. Some of that work as an emergency responder naturally involved responding to psychiatric calls—he excelled in those situations.

“I liked dealing with people that were in crisis,” says Jamie. “I enjoy trying to figure people out and assessing for safety.” He taught the psychiatric portion of the curriculum in EMT school and gravitated to involving himself in situations where he could help others.

When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, Jamie was working at a theater in eastern Long Island. He and his wife are both in recovery, and at the time, he wanted to make a move to somewhere with more opportunity where they could be in nature. His wife told him that if he proposed, she would move wherever he wanted. He asked her to marry him, and they made the move to Bennington, VT, where he got a job working at the local homeless shelter and she started working at an organization that helps young people heal from trauma. Things seemed to fall into place. Jamie’s wife took to rural Vermont life, making friends, getting to know neighbors, and listening to country music. She had always wanted a job that gave her the opportunity to work with kids who had experienced trauma, as she had.

“It was kind of serendipitous the way it all happened,” says Jamie. “It really worked out.”

Jamie was introduced to United Counseling Service (UCS) when someone appeared in crisis at the homeless shelter where he worked. The shelter called UCS and Emergency Clinician Ethan showed up to help get the individual to a calm and safe place. Ethan and Jamie connected almost immediately, and Ethan suggested he apply for a crisis position at UCS. They crossed paths again at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), where Jamie had taken a job as a front entry manager. He often found himself getting involved in crisis situations where he could offer help and even became an instructor in de-escalation training for staff. He ran into Ethan again at SVMC and then UCS’ Assistant Medical Director, and he took these meetings as signs.

“I had this nonclinical job at the hospital, but I was always finding some excuse to get myself involved in clinical situations,” says Jamie. “Codes, patients and visitors who were escalated—and I just realized that I really needed to be working with people.”

Jamie works now as an Emergency Clinician at UCS and responds to crisis calls day and night. No shift at work is ever the same and there is always an opportunity to help someone. Calls can call from the hospital, residential homes, or out in the community—Jamie and his team of clinicians travel to the scene with client safety as the top priority. Now, he is halfway through his Master of Social Work program and doing a job he loves surrounded by the beauty of Vermont.

“I consider myself blessed. I really love the job. I like that in my job, you can kind of win the battle and not worry so much about the war. You get clients safe, get them care and treatment. We can make that impact on somebody’s life in the very immediate sense. It’s my dream job that I didn’t even know was my dream.”

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