Emergency trauma technician course offered for first time to high schoolers

Fire department and school district pair up, 22 students pass

Posted: Sunday, May 17, 2009

For the first time ever, Capital City Fire & Rescue and the Juneau School District partnered to offer an Emergency Trauma Technician course to high school students.

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Courtesy of Paul Kelly
Courtesy of Paul Kelly

Of the 28 students signed up, 22 passed the course.

The 60-hour course - which began in February and lasted through April - was held after school four days a week at Thunder Mountain High School. Instructors from the fire department - Sandi Kelly, Paul Kelly, Beth Welden and Marilyn Vink - led the course.

It was designed to give students a taste of the health sciences or emergency services, Division Chief Weldon said.

"By doing that, you hope that you see them later, after they graduate, going into one of our fields," she said, hoping the experience would "kind of whet their appetite" to learn more about the professions.

The hands-on, skill-based course offers something different than the normal high school class, Weldon said.

"Kids who might not be the best academic students, or who don't go toward the book learning, love this class," she added. "There's a lot of book study too, so I'm not saying it's not smart kids, but students who are leaning to more vocational skills would love this class. It's just an opportunity for them to do something different."

Kelly, a volunteer firefighter, paramedic and instructor, said participation spiked this year with twice the number of students involved than during a normal class.

"I think (the turnout was positive) because more kids are seeing future careers in health care," she said. "And of course, some students know it's a building block to get into fire fighting, so it had dual purposes for some of these students."

The students that passed earned a class credit at their high school and the University of Alaska Southeast.

Juneau Fire Chief Eric Mohrmann initiated the course and the fire department's funding of it this year. Mohrmann, Weldon and Kelly has discussed the project for a couple years.

"(Mohrmann) had been tossing around the idea that this would be beneficial for the kids, and then in turn, hopefully, it would lead to future recruitment for us," Kelly said.

ETT teaches basic life-saving skills such as CPR, how to control major bleeding and caring for someone with a broken limb, among others.

"In our terms, the blocks we teach are called medical, legal and ethical," Kelly said.

The first week of classes is spent learning the legal side of things. After the legal stuff, students learn basic human anatomy as well as CPR, which is a one-day class.

At the end of the course, students must complete a state written exam, earning a 70 percent or better to pass, and a scenario-based test conducted in groups of two or three students where patients are assessed and treated.

An instructor since 2005, Kelly said it's interesting to see students' reactions on the first day of class.

"You start throwing some of the terms out to them, the medical side of things, and you just see the bewildered look on their face: 'Oh my goodness, why am I here?'" she said. "But then, as the class goes along and they start getting to do hands-on skills, there comes a point during the class time when it just seems to click. And by the end of the class, especially with the high school students, they're so proud of themselves for completing this."

Although the testing can be rigorous and the first few days aren't hands-on, in Kelly's opinion the 22 high schoolers showed their determination and desire in just showing up.

"We had some of the same things we see with adult students: Some days they missed because they didn't want to come to class or whatever the case may be," Kelly said, "but we had probably a huge percentage of the class give up football, give up soccer, give up coaching, whatever else their extra curricular activities were to be a part of this class."

About five of the students are old enough to pursue the fire department's EMT bridge course, where students complete 40 hours of the ETT class and later bridge out into an EMT course.

The school district and fire department want to offer the course again next year, but the district is still working out how it will be funded.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or by e-mail at kim.andree@juneauempire.com.

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