Eaton students learn emergency medical skills
Eaton students learn emergency medical skills
Posted on 03/26/2018
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Eaton students are instructed by an EMT on looking for wounds

By Taylor Glissman
Eaton High School Student

Day in and day out, paramedics arrive to scenes of trauma, prepared to save a life. They work tirelessly, knowing that they are holding someone’s future in their hands. Now, this responsibility lies upon a group of seniors from Eaton High School.

New this year to Eaton’s health science classes, the EMT – emergency medical technician – program walks seniors through all aspects of healthcare, allowing them to expand their knowledge and skills. Then, their past four years of high school training will be put to the test with hands-on experience in the field and in emergency rooms. A student who fully completes the program is able to go straight into the workforce as an EMT after graduation.

As Eaton begins its third year in existence, the school now consists of all four grade levels, including its first class of seniors. Because the EMT course is exclusively available to seniors, the program is just now being established during Eaton’s 2017-18 school year. The program isn’t exclusive to Eaton in Northwest ISD though, as seniors are also able to participate at Byron Nelson and Northwest high schools.

Although the idea of high school seniors working on a trauma scene may seem daunting, they first go through extensive training to ensure they’re prepared. The students initially have to complete the prerequisites of principles of health science, health science theory, and biology before even being considered for entry into the program.

“The bottom line is, when they get out [of the program], they should be fully equipped to save someone's life.”

Now, as members of the EMT program, they take two semesters of the 90-minute class period. This duration of training time is much different from other EMT programs offered outside of high schools. Tarrant County College’s program, for instance, only takes one semester. Even Dr. Glenn Huff, Eaton’s EMT teacher, only took four months to complete his training. Although it does take longer than other courses, the thorough training of Eaton’s program along with its activities and first-hand experiences ensure that students are prepared for careers in the emergency medical field.

“This program is different in comparison to other medical classes. It is a very rigorous curriculum and requires a dense amount of effort,” EMT student Brylan Villines said. “Students get to participate in a lot of really interesting activities. We get to go to conventions and interact with other interns and EMTs. We often get hands-on experience through actual EMT shift ride-alongs and even have helicopters fly out to campus to show us the ropes in different aspects of emergency health care.”

According to Dr. Huff, the most important piece of the program is the real-life experience that students receive. The program requires the students complete 60 hours of observation, either in ambulances or in the emergency room. Although the skills practiced in class are beneficial, Dr. Huff believes it’s not as valuable as working with people who are in the field. Knowing the importance of training new EMTs, the more experienced paramedics are sure to allow the trainees to participate however they can without putting anyone in danger.

“[The students] are issued a different colored shirt for [program coordinator] MedStar, and the paramedics all have grey shirts, so immediately [students] are recognized on the scene as someone in training,” he said. “But, the skills that they have been taught, the paramedics encourage them to use. The paramedics have been instructed to let them get in there and do chest compressions and let them use the bivalve mask. If they know how to spike an IV, do that. If they know how to put oxygen on someone, do that. They’re there to practice the skills they have learned in class.”

Despite the appeal of on-site practice and other activities, the EMT program is still a class that requires great amounts of work, both in and out of school. Dr. Huff said students who aren’t able to self-pace and focus will find it difficult to keep up with the pace of the program because of the amount of outside work required. For that reason, the EMT program is only designed for students truly interested in the medical field and willing to put in the work.

An EMT shows an Eaton student how to properly apply a bandage

“It’s a very rigorous program, and it's not easy,” he said. “It takes all four of the pathway courses that they have taken and wraps them into one course. They’re doing communications. They’re doing medical terminology. They’re doing anatomy and physiology. They’re doing all the healthcare stuff that puts all of that together.”

On top of the required 60 hours of observation, students must participate in the class, including all its coursework. They also have to finish the online portion of the course outside of school hours. After completing all requirements, students still have to take a 70- to 120-question national board exam, which evaluates a student’s knowledge of content. The test is computer adaptive, meaning the questions are increased or decreased in frequency depending on the student’s understanding of a certain topic. Only after all this will a student receive an official EMT certification from the National Registry.

Despite the massive amount of work that goes into the program, both Dr. Huff and his students believe Eaton’s new certification option to be a worthwhile venture. Rather than taking a course somewhere such as Tarrant County College, Northwest ISD is providing students with a free, yearlong course that gives beneficial trauma training. According to Dr. Huff, only three students out of the 22 students in the program are planning to become EMTs or paramedics. Even if those other 19 students don’t become EMTs, the program still teaches information that can be useful in any medical field.

“You never know in health care what’s going to happen and the level of response you are going to have to give,” Dr. Huff said. “So, this really drives home the need to understand how everything works and how all of the physiology of the body comes together and changes in ways that you might recognize. You may have your own clinic, but you don’t know that your patient isn’t going to show up and have some sort of an issue. Now you’ve had some sort of experience to be able to help. The bottom line is, when they get out [of the program], they should be fully equipped to save someone’s life.”

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2017-18 issue of Northwest Navigator magazine.