Mass. cadet program waiver renewed
The waiver allows students to go through the EMT program and take the state certification exam at 16-and-a-half years old
By Ken Cleveland Item Correspondent
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.
BOLTON, Mass. — The Nashoba cadet EMT program has been a presence in the Nashoba communities for over 30 years.
While they are welcome on scene, and arrive with all the training needed, the program needs a waiver from state regulations.
"Waivers in general are designed to allow services to perform/operate outside of the statewide policies and procedures," Ambulance Director Margy Diaz said. "It is really intended to pilot policies and procedures for a period of time, typically three years, and the success of the program is monitored.
The program recently got an extension to its waiver and will get a waiver that will extend into 2022, keeping the program's approval another couple of years.
"Ideally, the program is considered successful and is ultimately added to the statewide policies and procedures for other departments and services to implement. Bolton's waiver is very unique in that it has been in place for 31 years, but gets reviewed every few years," Diaz said.
The waiver allows for students to go through the Department of Transportation-approved EMT class and makes them eligible to take the state exam for certification at the age of 16½, Diaz said, with cadets getting certification as EMT-Cadets.
"It also states that Bolton can transport patients when staffed with one state certified EMT-B (18 years or older) and two state-certified EMT-Cadets (16.5 to 18 years old). Without the waiver, ambulances must have two state-certified EMT-B to treat and transport patients legally," she said. "The waiver is extremely important to the program and to the town.
"There are many, many benefits to this program, to the town, to our patients and to the students themselves. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to the students is that when they graduate, they are already a certified EMT," Diaz added "Many of our students go on to pursue careers in the medical field or in public safety and being certified is very advantageous. A huge benefit to the town is the EMS coverage that the Cadet program provides which wouldn't be possible without the waiver."
Many cadets also continue serving their communities.
"Another benefit of the program that is less noticeable but equally important is that the program provides Bolton (and probably Lancaster and Stow) with a pool of EMTs that already know Bolton, who join the department after graduation. Roughly half of our squad are former cadets, myself included," Diaz said.
"Surprisingly, the fundamentals of the program have not changed much over the years. We have had to make changes here and there to reflect changes made to EMS in general and we continuously evaluate and improve our processes but the foundation is still the same," Diaz said. "The town has added resources over the years to ensure that the program remains successful and we work closely with the school to make the program a safe and rewarding experience for the students. We also keep in touch with Harvard EMS as they have a similar program."
Diaz credited State Rep. Kate Hogan, who "really did a lot of work to keep this program in place and it really is appreciated. She has gone out of her way not only to support us but also to get to know the program."
As ambulance director, Diaz also has the perspective as both former cadet and now overseeing the program.
"On a personal note, as a former cadet, I can't possibly quantify the impact that this program has had in my life and I am so glad that we can continue to share that with our students," she said.
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