Early in 2018, Lieutenant Vince Coursey was chosen Paramedic of the Year – an award highlighting his personal and professional excellence. Vince embodies the top-notch public service delivered as part of St. Johns County Fire Rescue. “He’s also humble,” says Captain Jason Green who works with Vince at Station 9 in Vilano. The county’s award goes to “very good employees” meeting the highest criteria. A co-worker or supervisor nominates someone by letter; then, it is reviewed by a committee. “We have tremendous paramedics, and each brings something different to the work,” says Vince. “You can learn a lot from your peers.”
In Florida, paramedics are like field nurses working under the license and jurisdiction of a medical director. The nature of a paramedic’s work requires treating patients wherever they are found – so settings vary. They provide services typically found in emergency rooms. Furthermore, St. Johns County requires dual certification as firefighters and EMTs or paramedics, which requires a longer training. About 85% of county firefighters are trained as paramedics. “Vince recently saved the day when he made a tourniquet out of a triangular bandage for a man whose arm was cut badly after falling off a roof,” says Captain Green. “The man would’ve easily bled out.”
Vince Coursey was born in Atlanta, Georgia. At age 3, his family moved to Jacksonville’s Mandarin area. His father was in the military then worked in the private sector; his mother was an educator. During his time at Bishop Kenny High School, he joined the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corp, also known as the Old Jacksonville Beach Lifeguards. And though he graduated from the University of North Florida as a history major, Vince, encouraged by friends and parents, continued his service for eight years.
In 2001, Vince attended the Fire Academy of the South at Florida State College Jacksonville. His first job as a professional firefighter was with Jacksonville Beach Fire Rescue. He moved to St. Johns Fire Rescue in 2006. He worked for a few months at Station 11 in the Shores, then transferred to Station 5 in St. Augustine South where he worked for eight years. He’s been at his current post, Station 9, for only a few months and is adapting to a new crew, though he has “known the guys for years.”
The strong bond among firefighters helps. Stress is an inherent part of the job, says Vince. After an event, the crew returns to the station and debriefs. “We watch out for one another, we talk about what happened. Some have mentors. There’s no stigma attached to having a need to talk about traumatic events.”
Vince is married to Michelle Dillon, president of the St. Johns Education Association, and when he’s not on the job, he regularly enjoys surfing, swimming, cycling and running. He also makes a great gumbo, according to Captain Green.
As a Marine Rescue Lieutenant for four seasons, Vince trained seasonal lifeguards and cross training firefighters to conduct marine rescue. The Vilano Firefighters Marine Rescue began at Vince’s Station 9. Today it is a large program sporting a new boat lift and dock at the Vilano Boat Ramp. They also have a new 30-foot boat, the Marine 12. “Vince has been chosen to operate it,” says Captain Green, “few in the department have that privilege.”