Emma Tilton’s hands-on approach to career exploration convinced her that she’d enjoy a career in the medical field – but probably not as a nurse.

Already working as a Nursing Assistant at Johnston Memorial Hospital, she’s seen first-hand what a typical day is like for a nurse. She has a great deal of respect for the hard work nurses do each day, she said, but doesn’t think she’s cut out for the job. So the 20-year-old changed her major to Science and began investigating other jobs in the medical field. She’s really intrigued by the possibility of a career in the Coast Guard, with the hopes of one day performing medical missions overseas.

“I really like the idea of working in other countries helping people,” she said. “That’s something I’m looking into. I really just love the medical field. It’s where I feel passionate.”

Helping others comes naturally to Emma.

A certified Emergency Medical Technican, she currently donates her time to the Damascus Volunteer Rescue Squad. It’s a passion she inherited from her father, Brian Tilton, who teaches EMT courses at VHCC, and her older sister, who she worked closely with for a time while they were both volunteers for Washington County Life Saving Crew. She learned a great deal from both of them and the other first-responders she’s worked with in her volunteer roles.

“We run 911 calls and help people with some medications and basic life support until we can get them to the hospital,” she said. “It’s been an incredible opportunity for me to work with experienced paramedics and learn from them.”

Emma’s volunteer service and near-perfect GPA recently earned her recognition as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa All-Virginia Academic Team. The award was presented in Richmond during a special ceremony that recognized Virginia’s top community college students. Emma was joined by Associate Professor Julie Little, who nominated her for the honor, and VHCC President Gene C. Couch Jr.

“It’s really an honor that I wasn’t expecting,” she said.

When not busy with school work and her many other responsibilities, Emma enjoys being outdoors. She likes biking on the Creeper Trail, playing frisbee, soccer, snowboarding and skiing. She also finds time for her 8 siblings, who range in age from 3 to 23. Her older sister has been a great friend and role model, she said, and she hopes to follow that example for her younger brothers and sisters.