Meet our staff

The Staff that Golfs Together Saves Together! In A Heartbeat instructors pictured left to right: Rob Collette, Owner Gretchen Nahkala, Monica Hamilton McCarthy, and Brett Wilder at a charity golf tournament in 2018.

 Gretchen Nahkala, Owner, Instructor, EMT, RDH

FullSizeRender (9)Gretchen has been in the health field as a dental hygienist for over 25 years. She became a certified CPR instructor so that she could train her coworkers, but her outgoing personality and knowledge soon put her classes in demand. As a result, she created In A Heartbeat to meet the CPR and First Aid needs of the medical field and other vocations that require safety training. In 2006, she returned to school to become a certified EMT, and currently serves as the Ambulance Director with an on-call fire department. She wears many hats, but her favorite role is that of loving wife and mother. Her husband Jeff continues to support all that she does while her kids keep her laughing.

Jeff Nahkala, Instructor, FF, EMT

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Jeff has been a part of In A Heartbeat since the very beginning. As a co-owner of a successful dental lab, he was very helpful when Gretchen decided to launch her business. A third generation firefighter, Jeff is the Fire Chief for the Town of Oakham, MA. He is also an EMT and CPR instructor. Jeff relaxes by playing trumpet and spending time with his family.

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nica Hamilton McCarthy, Marketing Director, Instructor, BA

Monica joined the In A Heartbeat team in 2015 as the Marketing Director, and social media manager. She became a Heartsaver instructor in 2016 and a BLS Healthcare Provider instructor in 2017. Monica has a degree in English with a Humanities concentration from Providence College in Rhode Island, and is also a freelance writer and editor. Monica also volunteers as a fundraiser and special event planner for animal rescues, including the Cat Rescue of Marlborough and Hudson (CaRMaH), and plays traditional Irish music in the band Dublin Down.

ProfilePatrick McCarthy, Instructor, BS

Patrick has been with the In A Heartbeat team since 2003. A graduate of The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Patrick worked in the mental health field for many years. Patrick specializes in industrial health and safety, and also works as a manufacturing professional. He is also a musician and an avid outdoorsman.


Brett for websiteBrett Wilder,  Instructor, EMT-B, Wilderness EMT

Brett joined the In A Heartbeat team in 2018. He also works as an emergency room technician at Marlborough Hospital. Brett is a U.S. Navy veteran where he spent six years working as military police and security. After separating from the Navy is 2012 he went on to earn a degree in Exercise and Sports Science with a concentration in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Fitchburg State. Brett is also a graduate of the Stonehearth Outdoor Leadership School (SOLO) where he earned his Wilderness EMT certification.

Rob Collette, Instructor, FF, EMTIMG_2577

Rob is the Deputy Fire Chief and EMT for the on-call fire department in the town of Oakham, MA.  Rob also has his degree in electronics and works in field service. He got his start in emergency medical treatment in 1992 while serving on the medical response team for AstraZeneca.  Having seen firsthand how effective CPR can save someone’s life, Rob decided to join the In A Heartbeat team to share his experiences.


Jake Nahkala, Instructor, FF, EMT

FullSizeRender (13)Jake graduated with a Fire Science degree from Southern Maine Community College. He has completed training at the Fire Academy in ME and become a nationally registered EMT. Jake is also a certified lifeguard, Captain on the Oakham Fire Department, and is a training officer there. He also works full-time as a Firefighter/EMT at Worcester Regional Airport. He enjoys spending time outdoors and helping others.

Barbara Ruchala, Instructor, EMTIMG_3732b

Barbara first became a CPR instructor in 1974 and has been teaching regularly since 1992. Before joining the In A Heartbeat team in 2015, Barbara mostly taught for the Rutland Fire Department and Girl Scout volunteers. She has been an EMT for Rutland for 20 years, where she has lived for 46 years. Born and raised in California, Barbara has two granddaughters.


Greg Davis, Instructor, RN, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

Version 2A pediatric nurse at Boston Medical Center in their ICU, Greg joined the staff of In A Heartbeat in 2016. A graduate of Worcester State University, Greg is the Head U12 Ski Racing Coach for the Wachusett Mountain race team. He also spends time paddle boarding, fly fishing, and participating in shooting sports.

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Joe Flagg, Intern, Assistant Instructor

A sports enthusiast, Joe helps instructors for all levels of classes after school and on his summer break. A new big brother, Joe just became certified in BLS CPR for adults, children, and infants. Joe is also certified in Bloodborne Pathogen Infection Control and hopes to become an AHA instructor when he’s older. He plays football and loves rooting for all the New England teams.