Medical helicopter flies in for EMT class

Medical helicopter flies in for EMT class
Posted on 10/02/2020
Medical helicopter flies in for EMT class

Nacogdoches High School students taking an EMT certification course spent Wednesday morning going through the first of six skills days set aside as part of the semester-long program.

In the afternoon, on a picture-perfect East Texas fall day, the group moved outside just in time to watch a medical evac helicopter settle on the grass practice fields south of Dragon Stadium.

With the help of UTHealth East Texas’ EMS AIR1 crew along with firefighters from Nacogdoches Fire & Rescue, the students got an up-close look at the tools of the trade for emergency medical technicians.

The EMT course through the Career & Technical Education department at NHS is a pilot high school program with School of EMS, which operates in Texas, said Jacob Lusk, NISD’s Director of College & Career Readiness.

“Other high schools have EMT programs, but they either partner with a community college or must hire a fully certified CTE teacher who is also licensed to teach these EMT courses, Lusk said. “Being in a rural area, many other EMS education programs weren't ideal because they wouldn't travel to Nacogdoches or don't accept students without a GED or completed high school diploma.”

School of EMS makes five to six visits a semester to NHS to provide the skills training that took place Wednesday as well as clinicals required by students taking the course.

Completion of the class sets in motion a process where students can become eligible for their state licensing as an EMT.

“Once students complete the senior-level course requirements, they’re eligible to sit for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam,” said Coy Van Valkenburgh, an NHS instructor who teams with Mark Rogers from School of EMS to teach the class. “Upon passing the exam, graduating high school and turning 18 years of age, students are immediately eligible for their state license to begin working as an EMT.”

NISD didn’t add the course based on a whim, Lusk said.

“When the CTE department considered adding the EMT course, we first reviewed Labor Market Information for the state and the Deep East Texas region,” he said. “In our region, Education and Healthcare are the leading industries in terms of employment, making up about a third of employment figures for all East Texas.”

While Texas Education Agency categorizes the EMT class as a Law and Public Service course, NISD decided to open up the class to its Health Science students, Lusk said, “since the skills taught mirror or expand upon the concepts taught in freshmen- and sophomore-level health science courses.”

On Wednesday, from the visiting paramedics, the students heard some of the practical details involved with the job.

“The thing about an EMS job, you never really know what you will be getting into each day,” said Sid Ireland, one of two paramedics flying with the helicopter crew that’s based in Athens, on the west side of UTHealth East Texas’ coverage area.

The air crew’s schedule looks similar to EMTs and firemen, working 24-hour shifts with time off in between.

The three-man crew for the helicopter flights includes the two paramedics (both are also registered nurses) and a pilot. Other than the patient, a stretcher and hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical equipment, there’s little room for anything else in the aircraft.

That’s one reason the air crews spend so much time going over protocols and procedures, Ireland said. Not only do they have to know the equipment onboard and how to use it, “We also have to remember where it is,” Ireland told the class.

NHS students peered inside the helicopter and asked questions of the crew, such as does the pilot have to assist with the emergency medical care of a patient?

The pilot has one job... get the patient and crew safely to medical care. In fact, pilots are trained to fly and handle the aircraft “by the book,” Troy Wyatt told the students.

“[The crew] shouldn’t know the difference from one pilot to the next,” he said. “We do the same thing, every time, by the book.”

Ireland described the importance of flexibility for each situation is a key factor for success in his job.

“It’s really a thinking man’s game,” Ireland told the students, letting them know EMTs on the ground and in the air always have to be making adjustments, depending on the situation at hand.

Students interested in the EMT course can enroll in Health Science or Law Enforcement programs next academic year, Lusk said.

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