Highschoolers train as EMTs in Ariz. county program

It's the only certified high school program in the state; students complete the training tuition-free as part of the district’s mission to "put Arizona to work"


By Alexis Huicochea
The Arizona Daily Star

PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. — By day, Ben Trumpinski is a 17-year-old senior at Cienega High School. But when classes let out, he is an EMT-in-training.

Trumpinski is one of about 50 high school students enrolled in Pima County JTED’s emergency medical technician course — the only certified high school program in the state that prepares students to earn the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians certification.

The yearlong program trains students in lifesaving skills, CPR, airway management, taking care of trauma, how to recognize emergencies, and safely transport patients, along with other skills that require emergency medicine at a basic level.

While much time is devoted to the technical side of being an EMT, Trumpinski has taken much more away from the course, he said.

“You learn a lot more then just the medical side,” the 17-year-old said. “One of the biggest things is talking to people. We learn about public speaking and having a command presence in the room.”

For instructor Michelle Watson, teaching students critical thinking, decision-making and how to make connections with people are skills that can be applied anywhere.

“We make them good EMTs, but we also teach life skills to make them a better person and better employees.” she said.

Like other JTED offerings, the EMT course is part of the district’s mission to “put Arizona to work,” said district spokesman Greg D’Anna.

As the medical profession continues to grow, so do careers in the Border Patrol, law enforcement and firefighting, he said.

“These are key areas where we need people,” D’Anna said. “There is a demand for the first responder field and the health-care professions. The great part about this is students are able to complete the training tuition-free while in high school and have the opportunity to explore the profession.”

Once Trumpinski completes the JTED course, he will take the certification test, he said. From there, he plans to work as a paramedic throughout college and eventually go to medical school to become a doctor.

While some may not be comfortable with an 18-year-old providing emergency medical care, the students enrolled in the JTED course are dedicated, spending anywhere from eight to 16 hours a week after school to get the proper training.

“You would think because of their age that they are too immature to take this on,” said Watson, who also works as an EMT for Rural/Metro and Southwest Ambulance. “But they are mature and they want to learn. These students put in the work and the effort. They are very engaged — that just speaks volumes. They are here because they want to be here.”

One such student is Christine Ramirez, a senior at Sunnyside High School, who not only manages her regular coursework and the EMT program, but a part-time job at McDonald’s as well.

“I think it’s a really good program,” the 17-year-old said. “I know I want to be a paramedic and this is kind of like a guaranteed way to get there.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the same program that community college students pay for is being offered for free through JTED, she said.

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©2014 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.)

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