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Quick thinkers wanted

Kent ISD – Lowell High School seniors Lexy Kapcia and Aurora Fredricks arrived on the scene with an unconscious “patient” who appeared to have overdosed on opioids.

“What course of action do you take?” asked Eric Daniels, a Life EMS instructor and the instructor for the Kent Career Tech Center’s newest course: emergency medical services.

“You first want to make sure the person is unconscious,” Lexy said. “You do not want to administer Narcan to a conscious person.”

Narcan – a.k.a. Naloxone, a nasal spray opioid blocker – has little effect on conscious patients, Levy noted as she checked the patient, determined he was unconscious and began the procedure of administering Narcan. She recited each step to her instructor and her partner as she did them.

Because of the high interest in its health career programs, Kent Career Tech Center added the EMS program along with the medical assistant program this fall. In the EMS program, juniors and seniors learn EMS skills in rapid assessment on critically injured or ill individuals. They also learn how to properly treat a fractured leg or arm, a heart attack, diabetes and opioid overdose. 

Students who complete the course have the opportunity to take a test to become a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT) and work for an ambulance service or in a hospital emergency room. 

The training is beneficial for those seeking to go into law enforcement, firefighting or paramedics, Daniels said, and students can also advance to health fields such as nursing or physician’s assistant. 

Good Career, Not for Everyone

Demand for EMTs is high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, EMT and paramedic careers are fast growing fields, with an estimated 6% increase projected from 2019 to 2029. Michigan-based Life EMS has operated successful programs in Allegan and Ottawa counties as well as Grandville Public Schools.

“There is a tremendous shortage in the field of EMS and paramedics,” said Tim Newton, the director of education for Life EMS, who noted the shortage was before the COVID pandemic. “The goal of offering a program like this is to introduce students to the health career and how they can give back to the community by helping neighbors who are in need.”

Daniels is quick to point out that it does take a special person to work in an emergency situation.

“Not everybody can be in an emergency,” said Daniels, who has served as a paramedic and firefighter for 26 years. “It is very much a high-pace, high-stress job where the person has to be able to think quickly and act.

“There (are) high expectations, and with this class I have been impressed with their willingness to learn, their knowledge and abilities so far.”

Fast, Fun

“Being in a program like this and working in an emergency has really helped me figure out what I want to do,” said Lexy, who is considering going into the medical field after graduation.

For both Lexy and Aurora, team leaders in the morning class, what attracted them to the EMT program was the hands-on experience and the opportunity to have a career right out of high school.

“As part of our training we have to work in an emergency room and ride along in an ambulance,” said Aurora, who hopes to go to medical school and become a trauma surgeon. “Having that opportunity to work alongside professionals as well as being able to have hands-on experience in the procedures is benefiting me in what I want to do in the future.”

With COVID, the program has faced some challenges including a decision by the state to not offer emergency department clinicals this year, but all the Tech Center students are scheduled for ride-alongs with EMS crews through May, Daniels said. 

“We were able to keep the material on track and we went heavy with the skills in preparation for closing before Thanksgiving,” he said, adding that all the current students are on track for earning their certification.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio

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