Skip to main content

College News

From "Emergency!" to emergency care: Rodenborg excited to have impact at Northeast

From "Emergency!" to emergency care: Rodenborg excited to have impact at Northeast

NORFOLK, NE - Carol Rodenborg said her interest in critical care started with the television show “Emergency!” and eventually led to the real thing.

“I look at it now and think ‘that is such a silly show,’ but I just loved it. As a kid, I would lay in bed at night, imagining calls. I’ve always had an interest in emergency care.”

Rodenborg joined Northeast Community College in March as the director of Emergency Medical Services (EMS)/Paramedic program. In her role, she directs and coordinates all aspects of the paramedic program and EMS training, including maintaining State of Nebraska certification at all levels of EMS training and maintaining national accreditation of the paramedic program through the Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoAEMSP).

Originally from Minneapolis, MN, Rodenborg earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and holds a number of certifications, including a critical care flight nurse certification. She lives in Pierce with her husband, Randy, and has three adult sons: Benjamin, Ravenna; Chris, Lincoln; and Briton, Pierce.

Rodenborg was working in the intensive care unit at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk when, in 2000, a flight nurse position with LifeNet, her “dream job,” became available.

In the role, Rodenborg and her colleagues worked two 24-hour shifts each week. Once an emergency call was received, the team strived to have the helicopter in the air within seven to eight minutes.

“It’s grab your helmet, make sure your boots are on, make sure your bladder’s empty, and you’re out in the aircraft, lifting.”

LifeNet transports patients to specialty hospitals within a 250-mile radius from Norfolk. They encounter patients with a variety of conditions, from stroke and cardiac issues to traumas and accidents, and are equipped to treat all age groups except newborns, who require a specialty team and an isolette.

Rodenborg said the wide range of patients is exactly what drew her to pursue a career as a flight nurse.

“I don’t want to do the same thing day after day. When you come to work, you have no idea. You might not go anywhere that day, you might go several places, and you have no idea what kind of call you’re going to go on.”

Rodenborg said one of her most memorable calls involved a severely injured child who was unconscious and unresponsive.

“I climbed in the back of that ambulance, and I thought we’d go through the motions, but he just wasn’t going to make it. But it’s one of those times where you have to say: ‘never ever, ever give up.’”

After arresting twice in surgery, the child survived and went on to lead a normal life.

“It is so awesome to be part of that miracle. Not everyone has a positive outcome, but there are some pretty miraculous things that happen.”

Rodenborg said even the calls in which the patient dies can be miracles in their own ways, like when her team treated a car accident victim who did not have a survivable injury.

“No one could have saved him. But the amazing thing was how it took all of us, the flight crew and the ground paramedics, to provide what he needed, and the teamwork was amazing. Everybody was competent, and we worked so well together. There was nothing we could do to save him, but he still got the absolute best in terms of care and timing. If he was going to make it, he had all the opportunities for that to happen. And that was pretty awesome.”

Rodenborg has also impacted lives by holding a number of educator roles over the years. In addition to teaching classes at Northeast, she served as both base educator and regional educator for LifeNet, training new hires and coordinating all outreach education for hospitals and squads. She has also written continuing education classes for EMTs for the State of Nebraska and has co-authored curriculum for mass casualty incident management. She is still active in assisting with mass casualty drills, and volunteers and serves as training officer on the Pierce rescue squad.

Rodenborg said her role as an educator, and now as director of the EMS/paramedic program at Northeast, allows her to have a bigger impact on delivering quality emergency care to the area.

“Not only did LifeNet fly to hospitals, but we went to scenes--all kinds of scenes, from farm accidents, to car accidents, to industrial incidents. With all of that, I’ve seen the good providers and the not-so-good. I want to help that, offer as much education and training for professionals to be as effective as they can be. Northeast is the place to do that by starting at the ground level where we’re doing the training. There’s so much more we can do, and I’m excited to offer those additional opportunities.”

Dr. Michele Gill, dean of health and wellness at Northeast, said Rodenborg is a positive addition to the College.

“Northeast is fortunate to have found Carol to lead our EMS/paramedic program, as she is a gifted provided and educator.”

Rodenborg said she hopes to offer more training for instructors and students in the EMS/paramedic program, especially as it relates to Northeast’s simulators and other equipment. “That’s the education of the future. Let’s bring our instructors in, interact with the equipment and learn to use all our resources.”

Although the paramedic program at Northeast currently offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree, Rodenborg envisions it becoming an accelerated program, possibly one that can be completed in less than one year. The accelerated program will meet the needs of industry and northeast Nebraska as a whole with a well-trained healthcare provider.

“We have a really unique population here because it’s rural, so we don’t have many paid paramedic positions. Many students in the area may want to be volunteer paramedics with rescue squads, so let’s figure out how we can get them the education they need to do that.”

Rodenborg also wants to offer additional resources to current students in the paramedic program. This fall, students will have the opportunity to take a mock version of their National Registry Exam. They will complete the hands-on, skills-based exam with a paramedic examiner they’re unfamiliar with, and can take the practice version up to three times per year.

“Everybody learns differently, so if they’re struggling, let’s help them out. Let’s get them caught up.”

Overall, Rodenborg said she is excited to work at Northeast.

“I had an impact on lives as a flight nurse, but now I get to have an impact at a higher level.”

 For more information about the EMT/paramedic program at Northeast Community College, contact Rodenborg at (402) 844-7720 or




PHOTO ID: Carol Rodenborg. (Courtesy Mike Anderson)