Albany Technical College’s plan to revitalize its EMT/Paramedicine program got a shot in the arm this week with a grant of $30,000 for student scholarships.
During a Wednesday news conference, the Phoebe Putney Health System pledged to provide the funds for students who need help with college out-of-pocket costs.
The announcement came two days after the Dougherty County Commission voted to boost the pay of emergency medical technicians and paramedics, jail detention officers and police patrol officers in the county. Commissioners agreed to the pay increases after learning that emergency medical personnel and officers were leaving county agencies in alarming numbers.
“Several months ago we met with Dougherty County EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and didn’t really realize how much a shortage there was in EMTs and paramedics,” Tracy Suber, the health system’s vice president of education, said during an interview following the news conference. “We began conversations about the need in the community, especially because of COVID. We started having some internal conversations at Phoebe about how we can help.”
Phoebe already had in place a partnership through which it provides biology and nursing instructors at the college.
“We are very involved with what goes on with Albany Tech,” Suber said. “We approached Albany Tech about the EMT medicine. We’ll be in communication to see how it is working out a year from now.”
The scholarship funds should help about 10 students pay some of their out-of-pocket tuition expenses, Tracie Naylor-Griffin, chairperson of the EMT/Paramedicine program at Albany Tech, said.
The students are not just the future of emergency medicine in the region, they also are the present as five of the students in the program already are working with Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services. Other students are employed with Lee, Crisp and Turner counties.
Albany Tech wants to revitalize the program to help address the shortage of EMTs in the region, and the scholarships will help, Naylor-Griffin said.
“The shortage has been going on for years,” she said. “COVID just (exacerbated) the shortage and showed communities how important (EMS workers) are.”
Among the students who are working locally is Jordan Denson, who has been employed with Dougherty County since October 2020. Denson works 24-hour shifts and attends classes two days each week.
“I decided to do it one day,” she said. “I said let me try it. I stepped in here and said this is it.”
The scholarships will be a winner for Albany Tech, the ambulance service and Phoebe, Dougherty County EMS Director Sam Allen said. Albany Tech does a good job of training students, some of whom will work in the county and some who will go on to further their education and become nurses, he added.
“This is good for Dougherty County,” Allen said. “It’s keeping these people in the community. Albany Tech students, when they hit the road, they’re ready to go.”
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