Early last December, eighteen women and men began a journey to earn Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certificates from the State of Washington. Seven dropped out. Eleven stayed the course. The Orcas Island Fire Department now has ten new EMTs, and Shaw has one.
On April 5, the students completed their training with a full day of written and practical testing. Collectively, they studied 14,340 pages of the extremely detailed AAOS Emergency Care textbook and spent innumerable hours at EMS sites on the internet. They met for 23 evenings from 6:30 to 10 p.m., and five full Saturdays for lectures and hands-on instructed practice.
Dedicated, patient, and thorough instructors provided the vision to stand up to the challenges of the class. OIFD paramedic Dave Zoeller organized the course, taught, and directed training. The other three OIFD paramedics, Patrick Shepler, Mic Preysz, and Val Harris, taught many classes, as did several emergency care experts from off island. Island midwife Melinda Milligan led the class in emergency obstetrics. Numerous experienced EMTs from the department provided instructional time.
The islands’ new EMTs are Jason Madeiros, James Scheib, Mark O’Neill, Alicia Harris, Rick Anda, George Schermerhorn, Robin Dyer, Owen Cheevers, Whitney Hartzell, Dove Dingman, and Ingrid Lynch (Shaw). Madeiros, Scheib, O’Neill, Harris and Anda are also trained firefighters.
The EMTs completed rigorous practicals in both medical and trauma emergencies. For both categories of need, they learned how to make the first assessment “on scene,” communicate information efficiently to paramedics and other advanced life support personnel, prepare patients for safe transport, and when and how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Medical emergency calls include response to individuals facing respiratory, cardiovascular, diabetic, obstetric, geriatric, and pediatric issues. Trauma emergencies include helping patients with musculoskeletal injuries, medical shock, and allergic reactions.
Most important, the new EMTs have learned to recognize and deal with the big “ABCs” of emergency care: keeping an open airway, assisting with breathing, and preventing a patient from “bleeding out” before paramedics arrive.
The new volunteer EMTs are relieved that April 5, their test date, is over, and are looking forward to beginning their real learning on call with the department’s experienced paramedics and volunteer EMTs.
Jessica Giasullo audited the EMT class. She is an Eastsound resident.