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First responder training gets a boost from Sun City Center’s Interfaith Council

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image Dr. Allen Witt, left, and Larry Linder check out the features of the lifelike mannequin bought recently with a grant from the SCC Interfaith Council. Photo Penny Fletcher

The use of high-tech mannequins helps insure that students don't get any surprises when they're faced with the real thing.

Paramedics, EMTs and EMS personnel who train at Hillsborough Community College’s South County campus have a new patient from Sun City Center.

Sometimes he has heart problems, other days a fever and vomiting, and yet other times it’s trouble with his blood pressure shooting too high or dropping too low.

He’s a real mess — likely to have any number of accidents and illnesses in any one day.

Some days, he may even technically die on the table and be miraculously brought back to life through extreme emergency measures.

He’s the latest high-fidelity medical training mannequin in the lab, complete with a variety of capabilities from speech to displaying symptoms.

As of Nov. 12, he had not yet been named.

Bought with a grant from the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center, the new “patient” helps future paramedics, emergency medical technicians and emergency medical service personnel through simulations of actual events they will encounter in the field.

“Equipment like this helps our students continue to be the best trained when they get out into our communities,” said Larry Linder, program coordinator for all the HCC campuses. Linder explained that while nationally, there is about a 50 percent pass rate on state exams after schooling, HCC’s last class had 100 pass rate and usually has a state-wide rate of 98 percent.

“Some schools with just a couple of graduates can say they have an 85 percent pass rate, but if you only have two students, that’s a lot different than our classes that put out about 110 paramedics a year plus the EMT and EMS students,” he explained.

Students come to this program from all over, including Pasco and Hernando counties, and some even from out of state, he added. The cost is about $4,500 to $5,000 for paramedic training and from $1,500 to $1,600 for EMT students.

“This means many students can go through, paying as they go, instead of racking up a $20,000 debt,” said college President Allen Witt. “Between Pell Grants and jobs, it’s possible to go through our program and be out on the street making a starting figure around $30,000 – and some later go up to six figures, with no student debt behind them.”    

August graduates Judy Myette and Robert Leonard said they couldn’t be happier with the careers they have chosen.

Leonard was just hired as a paramedic in the emergency room at South Bay Hospital and is also continuing his training to get an EMS degree. He then plans to go on to become a registered nurse.

Leonard and Myette say they were “buddies” during their training together, and remain so now. But their lives “pre HCC” couldn’t have been more different.

While Leonard is just starting out, Myette, now 65, decided upon her new career at the age of 64.

“I owned my own dry cleaning business in Massachusetts,” Myette said. “When I moved to Sun City Center, I joined the (Sun City Center) Emergency Squad as a volunteer. But then I realized I wanted to be a paramedic.”

Myette, who was class speaker at graduation, loves her new possibilities, and has just accepted a job at South Bay Hospital. She says she will continue as a volunteer with the Squad, too, if she finds she is able to do both.

“We have students 18 and 74,” said Linder, who is in his 40th year in emergency services.

“Things have really changed,” he said, showing slides of what he referred to as “training in the old days,” and books from “then and now.” The differences could be easily spotted.

Linder and Lab Coordinator Ron Dorsey took turns demonstrating the different mannequins’ capabilities: two infants, a woman mannequin capable of delivery of a mannequin infant, and many mannequins in various stages of burns, lacerations, and internal distress.

“We have a whole variety of props in the back rooms,” Linder said. “Ladders they can fall from, plastic guns and knives, chain saws, tools.”

One of the mannequins was a roofer with a nail stuck in his mouth. Others had various degrees of burns and lacerations.

“We want to make sure our students don’t get any surprises when they face the real thing,” Linder said.

That’s why the high-tech mannequins are such an important part of the training.

Obviously Cruthis thought so, because she – the chair of Interfaith’s Grants Committee — suggested that HCC apply for the grant.

“It isn’t often someone comes to us and says why don’t you come to us for money,” Witt  said.

But community medical needs are changing faster than anyone can keep up with, they  explained. It hasn’t been long since the combination Fire-Rescue teams started. Now every fire truck has to have an emergency medical personnel person on board.

“Eighty percent of the calls the fire trucks go on are medically-related,” he said. “That means only 20 percent are for fires.”
Newer home-building materials and safety regulations have resulted in fewer fires, but an aging population is raising the need for medical response teams with greater knowledge.

“My age group is going to live to be 130,” Witt joked. “So the medical personnel need to be ready for a lot of new things.”
And many new things are in the works.

Linder explained that EMS and EMT personnel now do many jobs only doctors used to do.

And more and more “Community Paramedics” are beginning to be used.

This is a new position where paramedics check on homebound patients and on those released from hospitals.

“They’re doing things they never thought they would be doing,” Linder said.

Sonograms in ambulances are coming soon, and many other new jobs as well.

“Soon there will be mini labs right in the ambulance,” he added.

Witt plans a mock mass tragedy simulation in January where this class will do their first response duties and then transport “patients” by ambulance across the campus to the nurses’ training labs where they will all work together as an ER team.

“We have so many plans. We are going to keep up with the changing laws and times.”

By laws, Witt referred to the fact that hospitals are penalized if emergency patients return too often or too soon, and Community Paramedics can help eliminate the need for those returns. “Things are changing as people in the medical fields are cross-trained,” he said.

“I have learned that no matter what our job title, fire-rescue, EMT, paramedic ­— whatever, we are the first-responders and it is our job to keep people alive until they reach the doctor or hospital. We had to do 50 intubations before we were allowed to graduate. We were highly trained here. I am very happy with my training, and will be thrilled to begin my new job,” Myette said.   

To find out about the program, visit http://www.hccfl.edu.

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