March is National Women’s History Month and Social Work Month.
Both occasions are good reasons Nyack College 2021 Master of Social Work alumna, Emily Sigmon, is back in the spotlight. Earlier this year, the firefighter was elected to the office of captain—becoming not only the first female elected captain in the 131-year history of Chelsea Hook & Ladder Co #2—but also becoming the first female captain in the 159-year history of all eight companies of the Nyack, NY Fire Department.
With new initiatives being explored across our nation for social workers and counselors to support the efforts of first responders, Captain Sigmon responds candidly about how social workers might be of assistance in a fire disaster.
“When I consider this question as a firefighter, I recognize how intense and fast paced the fire scene is with countless personnel all working to protect life and property and I wonder how any “extra” people would really be helpful in that moment. But then as a social worker, I think of the level of trauma affecting each person impacted by the fire from the most minor impact to the most severe, and I think of multiple ways in which a social worker could be of service. It could be that they are a present support near EMS once people are escorted to a safe place to be evaluated. Maybe the help is at the hospital to provide a calm supportive presence and meet immediate needs in that moment. A social worker could also be of help in follow-up with individuals and families a few days after the incident. It may be all of the above.”
Emily’s impressive climb up the ranks in firefighting has evolved in a short time span. So, what’s next?
“I just became captain in January, and as much as I see things I would love to see improve overall, I also know I have much to learn as well. I am humbled by this opportunity to serve as captain and recognize the level of responsibility in front of me. I want to be the most effective in my role that I can be at this time by continuing to train personally; leading others in the company to train hard and serve with discipline and respect; and to continue to pave the way for those that come after. I don’t know what my future may hold in fire service, but I know that from the beginning, a title hasn’t been my goal. I am a firefighter because I found something I am very passionate about, and I’ve made it this far because when I put my name to something, I give it my all.”
“As it pertains to my social work career, I am studying to take my licensing exam and plan to have my LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker) by the end of the summer with the next goal to work toward my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). As it pertains to firefighting, I am focused on learning what it means to be captain, and my goal is to find ways that benefit the strength and development of my company and the fire department as a whole while staying true to who I am. Yes, I am a woman in a male dominated field, and as much as I am proud of making history in the ways that I have as a woman, I also know I don’t want to be known just by that. I want people to know me for the passion I bring, the care I show, and the improvement I have helped foster- no matter how great or small that may be.”
The community that Emily enjoyed in Nyack’s School of Social Work has contributed to her personal and professional life. She says, “Nyack’s School of Social Work provided me with a networking foundation. The program has a diverse population of students coming from so many professional and cultural backgrounds. I met people in the program that work with foster care, schools, hospitals, shelters, nursing homes, and more. I know I have a world of networking at my fingertips just by sending a message to an old classmate. I have learned from others in the profession that this is not something that is found anywhere. I am fortunate to have found it at Nyack.”
Photo credit: Adler Delcy