EMT training gives students life or death situations
From left Jim Whalen, of Forest Park, Megan Hansen, of Berwyn, and Ian Witbeck, of Northlake all remove their hands from the patient who is about to receive an electric shock in a replica ambulance on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012 at Triton College in River Grove. Triton's school for paramedics not only teaches students how to become EMT's but they learn real life scenarios the students may encounter once they graduate. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:15AM
RIVER GROVE —When faced with someone who needs medical attention, an emergency medical technician can’t hesitate when providing assistance.
William Justiz, coordinator of Emergency Medical Technology at Triton College, has combined classroom instruction with emergency scenarios as close to real life as possible — from responding to makeshift emergency calls to treating a volunteer posing as a patient in a replica of an ambulance.
“You have a checklist,” he said. “You (the student) are responsible for checking your equipment like your are working as an EMT.”
Each class has 24 students and the students are broken up into groups of two. Justiz said since only two EMTs respond to a real emergency situation, he wants the students to experience the same thing.
“We want them to start working in the field with another person,” he said. “We are trying to get the personality skill set of working with another person developed.”
As part of the class instruction a team is on duty during class. During class the two students have two-radios and often get a call on a radio to respond somewhere on campus.
When the students get to the scene, they will find either a volunteer pretending to be sick or a mannequin that they have to treat. Some scenarios they might have to address include: patients with chest pain or difficulty breathing, or someone who has fallen 30 feet.
The students will assess and address the situation, but there are other factors too.
“There will be the stress of people watching you,” he said.
There may be other people posing as relatives or friends around the injured person and they may act like they are in shock or crying.
“This is somebody’s worst nightmare you are walking into,” he said about situations EMTs experience on the job. “You have to walk in with a cool head and handle it.”
He said this kind of curriculum helps the students grasp what they are learning faster and become better EMTs through these scenarios. He considers it practice before the big game.
“Make the mistakes now,” he said. “Make as many mistakes as you (the student) can. You make the mistakes now, but you don’t want to make mistakes on a real live person.”
Megan Hansen, 22, of Berwyn, who recently took and passed the class, said Justiz’s program is the best in the state.
“Doing the fake calls helped me talk to the victims,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to go up to them and find out what’s wrong.”
“It gives you real life preparation,” said Jim Whalen, 22, of Forest Park who passed the EMT class and hopes to become a paramedic. “I knew what was expected of me.”
An EMT can provide basic life support to a patient and assist with administering basic drugs. While a paramedic can give shots as well as use more advanced medical equipment to support a patient’s breathing.
Justiz, who is also a full-time firefighter/paramedic in Chicago, said becoming an EMT is the first step toward other areas in the medical field. He said many graduates he’s taught since he took over the program in 2003 have gone on to various careers in the medical field.
The class is six credit hours and lasts one semester.
“Most people try to go on to be a licensed paramedic,” he said. “A lot more money and more attractive in terms of being hired.”