by Kevin Pink
Information Director, Indian Hills Community College
As Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week is celebrated nationally May 19-25 – the 45th Annual National EMS Week – Joshua Hemminger, the director of EMS programs at Indian Hills Community College, says it’s a perfect time to honor the dedication of those who provide day-to-day lifesaving services, and also remind the public there is a “huge shortage of EMS providers in Iowa and nationwide.”
There are four levels of EMS recognized in Iowa. They are Emergency Medical Responder (formerly First Responder), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Advanced EMT and Paramedic. Indian Hills, Hemminger points out, offers training at all four levels at different times throughout the year, and at different locations. Students may choose to pursue core certification at any level, or they can opt to get an Associate of Applied Science degree, which includes EMT and Paramedic along with general education courses.
The EMR level is designed for volunteers who want to help in their communities but don’t want to work in the medical field. Hemminger says this level is used by smaller volunteer fire departments and local first responder services. IHCC offers those classes mostly through its customized learning division.
“Anyone working for a fulltime ambulance service must be at least EMT-certified,” Hemminger says. “A lot of volunteer and paid fire departments, as well as local first responder services, also function at the EMT level. EMTs are trained in basic patient assessment and are able to perform basic life-saving interventions.”
The Advanced EMT level provides a few more skills, including IV access and administration of a few advanced medications.
Hemminger says the Paramedic is the highest level of pre-hospital provider. These individuals are “well-trained and educated healthcare providers with an advanced skill set.”
Each of the levels plays a key role, according to Hemminger. “Emergency medical responders are often the first medical personnel on a scene and can begin basic interventions for sick or injured patients,” he says. “Then, EMTs and Paramedics arrive with the ambulance and the equipment to take over patient care and transport the patient.”
For those who have never been in the back of an ambulance, Hemminger stresses there is a lot that happens during a transport. “It’s not just a taxi ride to the hospital,” he says. “Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition they might perform tasks like starting IVs, giving fluids, administering medications, giving breathing treatments, and controlling major bleeding. There is so much more to it than people realize.”
According to Hemminger, training and education in EMS includes a variety of learning methods. There are equal parts lecture, skills lab, scenarios and clinical experience. “We also implement job-like expectations for our students so they are prepared for work in the field,” he says. “Our equipment inventory at the college allows students to become familiar with a variety of tools and methods. And we have a working ambulance which allows students to acclimate to the field and perform skills and scenarios in a realistic setting.”
Hemminger says the Indian Hills program has 100-percent job placement and most students work as EMTs while they are earning their paramedic degree. “Finding a job in EMS isn’t difficult,” Hemminger notes, “and graduates can choose to stay close to home, or move to another area and work in a bigger city. The options are limitless.”
You can apply online for any EMS program at Indian Hills. There are a variety of options for EMTs starting this fall, including traditional face-to-face classes in Ottumwa and Centerville as well as a hybrid course in which the students do a majority of their work online and go to campus for skills practice and testing. Current EMTs who want to pursue paramedic certification will have the choice of taking classes during the day on the Ottumwa campus, or, starting this winter, during the evening.
(This is a monthly column provided by Indian Hills Community College)