Ill. EMS agency graduates its first 'Earn While You Learn' class

The graduation ceremony for the nine Abbott EMS employees coincided with EMS Week

Charles Mills
Effingham Daily News, Ill.

EFFINGHAM, Ill. — Nine Abbott EMS employees graduated Thursday morning from an inaugural program called " Earn While You Learn," leading them on a career path to receive their EMT certification. The graduation ceremony was held in conjunction with National EMS week at the Abbott EMS headquarters in Effingham.

Tyler Lindsey of Effingham, one of Thursday's graduates, thinks the program offers a unique opportunity.

"This is a great program for anyone interested in EMS or someone who wants to be a paramedic in the future," Lindsey said.

Lindsey told the EDN in March, two weeks into the eight-week program, that it gave him an opportunity he would have never been able to afford on his own.

"I always wanted to be in emergency services and just really didn't have the money to go to college to get the degree to become an EMT," Lindsey said.

Lindsey said he wants to work his way up to become a paramedic.

Graduate Heather McKinney of Flora said she liked the hands-on experience she gained during her class. She also wants to become a paramedic.

"My ultimate goal is to work on a helicopter as flight medic," McKinney said.

Members of the first Abbott graduating class are McKinney, Caitlyn Tinker of Watson, Anneliesse Eads of Altamont, Codey Devore of Beecher City, Kristin Lindsey of Effingham, Shianna Neira of Mattoon, Tyler Lindsey of Effingham and Adrianna Knueppel. Also graduating is Tyler Ball, who was not able to attend Thursday's ceremony.

The Master of Ceremonies was Heather Morse, the Southern Illinois and Southern Indiana regional director for Global Medical Response. Abbott EMS is a subsidiary of American Medical Response, one of several companies owned by Global Medical Response.

Morse said the EWYL program started in 2018 as a partnership between the City of Buffalo, New York and AMR due to a critical shortage of trained EMTs caused by an aging workforce and rising retirement numbers.

Employees are hired specifically for the EWYL training program, earning a paycheck while meeting the qualifications for EMT certification. Morse said over 400 EMTs across the Northeast and Midwest have been hired and trained through the EWYL program.

The Effingham program was a partnership between Abbott EMS, Sarah Bush Lincoln and Lake Land College.

Lucas Ruholl, EMT-P, EMS instructor at Sarah Bush Lincoln, was lead instructor for the course.

"Abbott was very good to me. They let me in and treated me like family," Ruholl said. "Eight weeks ago I was able to meet nine remarkable individuals and I really enjoyed teaching them."

Ruholl told graduates that EMS is a rapidly growing profession.

"You have the power to pave the way and be the best you absolutely can be," Ruholl said. "There is one distinct thing that I found that separates a good provider from a terrific provider, that is passion. This is truly the best job in the world."

Jasmine Ballard, Lake Land College Emergency Medial Services Coordinator, was one of the speakers at the graduation.

"To say that you have persevered through this class would be an understatement," Ballard said. "You have shown determination and dedication and along the way enjoyed some time for fun and laughter."

Ballard said the program was a team effort from the beginning.

"I pray that you always remember that this does not end in the classroom, but it will follow you throughout your careers," Ballard said. "Throughout you career, seek those opportunities to keep learning and find a mentor to help you grow and hold you accountable."

"I challenge you to always remember the gift this opportunity was to never stop learning," Ballard said.

Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann thanked Abbott EMS, Sarah Bush Lincoln and Lake Land College for putting together the program, addressing the problem of finding trained EMT personnel to hire.

"It's innovative. It's a unique public-private partnership and it addresses a need the community has," Niemann said.

Niemann, a former law enforcement officer, told graduates they were in an occupation that comes with a great deal of responsibility and which demands professionalism.

Niemann said, "You have chosen a profession that allows your path to intersect with other people's paths on their very worse days. What will be a routine call for you, for them is a life-changing event. It is something they will remember the rest of their lives."

"They need you to be their anchor. You are literally their lifeline," Niemann said. "If you treat that with your training, protocols, compassion, professionalism and competence you're going to pull them through."

Niemann told the graduates if they do the right things for the right reasons at the end of the day they can look in the mirror and feel good about what they have done.

The Vice President of Operations for Global Medical Response, Joe Grygiel, was impressed with the accomplishments made by the graduates.

"It's hard to believe it was just 10 weeks ago when we sat in a room doing interviews," Grygiel said. "I look at the nine of you and couldn't be more proud of what you guys have done over the last eight weeks."

Grygiel recognized the top two students of the graduating class, Tinker and Eads, with a special coin.

"Congratulations, it's just starting and I wish you guys all of the best," Grygiel said to the graduating class.

Tinker and Lindsey spoke during the ceremony.

"When I found out about this opportunity, I jumped right on it because I instantly knew in my heart this is where I was supposed to be," Tinker said. "To say this is an incredible opportunity is an understatement. The knowledge and experience I have gained while doing this was hands down the best."

"I am so excited to be able to work in the community I grew up in my entire life," Tinker said.

Lindsey talked a little bit his experience over the past eight weeks.

"This class was a great an unforgettable experience for all of us," Lindsey said. "We were able to through our college course while getting out in the ambulance and learning hand-on in the field.

"When I started this EMT class I didn't think it would fly by so fast. This past eight weeks has been a privilege and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity."

Lindsey thanked his co-workers who came in on their own time to help teach the class.

Ruholl and Lake Land College Emergency Medial Services Coordinator Jasmine Ballard gave each attending graduate their certificates for completing the eight week course.

"I would recommend this program to anyone who might be interested in EMS," Lindsey said after the ceremony.


(c)2021 the Effingham Daily News (Effingham, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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