Philadelphia Fire Department’s (PFD) Engine 78- Aircraft and Rescue Firefighting unit (ARFF) and Medic 30 Fire Service Paramedic (FSP) Tanji Michael recently received the “Caring Support” award in Philadelphia International Airport's (PHL) Airport Employee Recognition Program. This award recognizes employees who provide exceptional care and services to seniors, families with young children, disabled passengers, and others with special needs.
At PHL, Michael responds to emergency dispatches in and around the airport, on planes, in baggage claim, at arrivals, at the Marriott Hotel, and even on I-95. She also provides people with essential emergency medical care by evaluating and checking their vital signs, conducting physical assessments, and determining if they need to be transported to the closest hospital. Michael has been employed by the City of Philadelphia for 22 years and came to the airport in 2014. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Drexel University.
“The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I can put people at ease when they aren’t having the best days of their lives,” said Michael. “If I can provide great care and the best services to them, it makes a difference.”
While working, Michael uses strong assessment skills when providing care to passengers. She closely listens to people and talks to bystanders to further understand how to assist the patient. “When they know you care, you can establish trust immediately,” she said.
Michael’s caring support transcends expectations and was acknowledged by passenger Anissa Conley, the director of Nursing Professional Development & Magnet Program at Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital.
In her nomination of Michael, Conley wrote, “For the first time in my life, while on a business trip on 10/15/2022, I experienced debilitating back muscle spasms. With a called-in prescription, I thought I could get home via plane. Despite being medicated, the Uber ride to the airport took its toll. I started having spasms again, even more so after I was required to try to walk through security while utilizing a wheelchair. Finally, I decided I could not make the flight, and my travel mates summoned help. Once Paramedic Michael arrived, she took me away to meet the ambulance. I was miserable, embarrassed, crying, and frustrated. She was amazing the entire time, from the ride in the wheelchair to staying with me in the ambulance to the hospital. She wiped my tears, gave me hot packs, secured my belongings, and proactively told me where we were going and how long it would take. She even apologized for the bumpy ride. I can't thank her enough for her compassion. As an RN leader who works in a large health system in Indiana, I can tell you that she treats people how we want our team members to treat people.”
Michael’s entire department applauds her for this nomination and her work ethic. Together, they’ve established a strong community support system and embody teamwork, effectiveness, respect, and integrity.
“Most firehouses are like a family,” said Michael. “We go to weddings, funerals, christenings, barbecues, and some of us vacation together. We eat together as a family in the firehouse. I love that it's a family environment. When my grandmother passed away years ago, my entire fire station was there except for my coworkers that had to work. We show up for one another.”
Michael’s grandmother inspired her to enter the health field. “She came from the South,” said Michael. “She always wanted to be a nurse, but she was born in 1911, and in her time, that wasn’t available to her as a Black woman in that era. She used to take me to visit sick community members of her church. That experience with her instilled caring support within me.”
Working at the airport requires unique skills that are different from other fire and medic stations in the city. “Our specific trucks, medic unit, river rescue training, driving on the airfield, and our communication make us stand out.”
Michael appreciates the strong working relationship between her unit and airport operations when responding to emergencies. “They are good at communicating with us. They are at an emergency incident first. So it’s always a group effort. It’s a full partnership. I never feel like we’re alone on any medical run.”
Last year, Michael was one of a few women recognized during Women’s History Month for making a difference in a male-dominated field.
Music, traveling, and Michael’s religious beliefs are the self-care methods she practices.
“I give kudos to my coworker Thomas Rusby,” said Michael. “We have a great partnership. We have strong non-verbal communication between us. We don’t need to tell each other what to do. We’re clear on our job roles. We work well as a team. He’s truly a partner.”
The PHL Employee Recognition Program was established by the airport’s Guest Experience (GX) Department. Honorees are nominated by their peers and selected by the GX Council Steering Committee’s Employee Conduct and Recognition Committee. For more information about the program and to nominate an employee, click here.