Five CHS seniors complete EMT certification course

Five CHS seniors complete EMT certification course

Michael Minot, left, and Spencer Creamer practice airway management techniques on a mannequin at Cumberland High School. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)

CUMBERLAND – Five Cumberland High School seniors will graduate in June as certified Emergency Medical Technicians after completing an EMT certification course, as long as they pass their state certification exam.

The high school partnered with the Cumberland Rescue Service for the first time this year to offer the course, which runs for 13 weeks. Participating students are required to dedicate more than 150 hours of their time, meeting twice weekly after school and sometimes on Saturday. In addition to 120 hours of classroom and lab time, they must each complete 15 hours of patient care during ride-along training in a rescue vehicle and 15 hours of observation in an emergency department.

Leaders say it’s an enormous commitment for a busy high school senior. Since the program started in January, the group of participants dwindled from nine students to five because of the demanding schedule. Seniors completing the program are Stephanie Erickson, Keri Mitchell, Madison Saraiva, Spencer Creamer and Michael Minot.

“The greatest challenge was balancing the class, labs and ride time with my schoolwork,” said Mitchell, who plans to apply for employment with a private rescue company when she attends Emmanuel College this fall.

While volunteering 15 hours of ride-along time with members of the Cumberland Rescue Service, students are given the chance to directly apply the skills they’ve learned. So far, they’ve responded to emergencies from car accidents to sick calls, including congestive heart failure.

“It’s been interesting to spend the past few weeks applying what we learned in the classroom. Dealing with people is completely different from reading a book,” said Erickson, who said she hopes to work for the University of New England’s on-campus medical service as she studies to be a physician’s assistant. The program will also give her a head start in amassing the 500 patient care hours required by her physician’s assistant program.

“It’s definitely different from working on a mannequin,” said Minot, who will join the U.S. Army when he graduates. “I kind of know what they’re talking about on medical TV shows.”

“… It’s a whole other language,” added Saraiva, who plans to study nursing at Rhode Island College. She said one of the hardest things to learn was quickly and accurately take a patient’s vital signs.

“A mistake could be life or death,” said Creamer.

For Creamer, the best part of ride-along time has been “seeing everyone spring into action” at the scene of an emergency. “Without even talking, the members of each department know exactly what to do,” he said. Creamer will attend the University of Maine next semester for nursing.

Along with preparing for AP and final exams, the students have been preparing to sit for their exam to pass the EMT course, a combined written and practical assessment of skills. If they pass the class, they are eligible to seek licensure with the state.

The practical portion of the exam provides students with mock emergency scenarios to respond to, requiring them to demonstrate their skills on a mannequin. Forgetting a step or making a mistake could mean automatic failure.

“It’s a fairly stringent testing process,” said Deputy Joseph DeAngelis, who has been teaching the course along with Lt. James Richard, Lt. Scott Desert, Lt. Jason Gomes and Private Stephen Parent.

DeAngelis teaches paramedic and EMT courses at the Community College of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University, but this is the first time he has taught at the high school level. He said the students who stuck with the program impress him.

“It’s a challenge to be in school all day and then come here,” he said. “It’s a lot to balance, and it speaks volumes about the students still in the program.”

CHS senior Keri Mitchell demonstrates one of the techniques she has learned to aid with breathing.
Madison Saraiva, left, has her blood pressure taken by Stephanie Erickson.