Some 75 seniors in seven high schools in six Louisiana cities are currently taking a one-year course with the goal of becoming certified EMT-basics thanks to a collaborative effort between the Louisiana Bureau of EMS, Acadian Ambulance Service and the Louisiana Department of Education, which provides funding and primary authority for the program.
Acadian Community Relations Coordinator Joshua Chamblin, who serves as the ambulance service’s representative and project manager for the program, said the two state agencies and Acadian embarked on the project in 2007 to:
- Increase the exposure of high school students to EMS and encourage them to consider it as a career option;
- Offer students the chance to earn an industry-based certification at no cost to them;
- Provide an additional relevant, rigorous, goal-oriented education option in hopes of lowering the high school dropout rate;
- Promote awareness about health and injury prevention; and
- Increase community preparedness for medical emergencies.„„„„„
Previously, only two high schools in the state had an EMT-B course and enrolled only a total of 16 students each year.
Under the new program, each class is limited to 15 students, who usually meet for at least two hours a day, five days a week. “By the end of the school year, high school EMT students complete more than 300 hours of instruction,” Chamblin said. Students must also spend at least 24 hours doing clinical internships on Acadian ambulances.
Acadian provides instructors to train the schools’ teachers, who are then certified by the state bureau of EMS as EMT-B instructors to teach the courses. Paramedic instructors employed by Acadian also teach the students such invasive skills as the use of the double-lumen airway. In addition, 135 Acadian paramedics and EMTs volunteer as “High School Liaisons,” assisting instructors, sharing their experiences, mentoring students and providing demonstrations, exercises and mock drills.
“Several years ago, Ray Bias (Acadian Ambulance’s government relations manager and former chair of the National Registry of EMTs Board of Directors) fostered the establishment of first responder classes in Louisiana high schools,” Chamblin said. “The program has been extremely popular among school administrators and students alike and spread to more than 50 high schools in just a few years.” That first-responder program continues to thrive, and students must take that course before taking the EMT-B class, which is taught by the same instructors who teach the first-responder courses.
According to Chamblin, the students “are encouraged” to take the National Registry of EMTs exam “and are scheduled to test before the end of the school year.” The first classes should test later this spring. By completing the course, students also earn college credit applicable toward a paramedic AA degree at a Louisiana community college or other state college.
“We are promoting enrollment into the program using a host of marketing materials including a novelty CD-ROM with videos about EMS, posters, ink pens and more,” Chamblin said.
He credits the program’s success to Acadian’s leadership, the partner agencies and the late Cecil J. Picard, who supported the program when he was the state’s superintendent of schools. “The complementary roles of our partners are an excellent demonstration of the way government and industry can work together to improve education and the quality of life of our citizens, train the workforce and promote economic development,” he said.
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