Mass. city partners with ambulance service for high school EMT course

Chicopee High School entered into a two-year agreement with National Ambulance to offer an EMT course for high school seniors


Jeanette DeForge
masslive.com

CHICOPEE, Mass. — City students will have a new opportunity to find a job and save lives with a new course that will enable them to become emergency medical technicians as they are graduating high school.

The School Department recently entered into a two-year agreement with National Ambulance to offer semester-long EMT courses to Chicopee High School students starting in January.

The School Department recently entered into a two-year agreement with National Ambulance to offer semester-long EMT courses to Chicopee High School students starting in January.
The School Department recently entered into a two-year agreement with National Ambulance to offer semester-long EMT courses to Chicopee High School students starting in January. (Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen/The Republican)

“We are very excited about it. There is definitely a need out there for EMTs,” said Carol Kruser, the principal at Chicopee High School.

For several years school officials have been working to expand career pathways for students beyond the traditional vocational courses in the Career Technical Education program offered at Comprehensive High School. They have added multiple academies for older students who want to focus on careers in subjects such as health science and criminal justice and more hands-on classes.

“We are constantly looking to expand dual enrollment and it is a priority for Chicopee High to expand our pathways and career options,” Kruser said.

The EMT class, which is the first of its kind in an area high school, will be treated similarly to dual enrollment programs offered through local colleges where students receive both college and high school credits, said Kara Blanchard, director of career and workforce development.

National Ambulance, which already runs EMT courses out of its training facility on Main Street in the city, will have its trainers teach the three-credit class, she said.

Students will also additional hands-on classes at the National Ambulance facility – which is a short walk from Chicopee High – either after school or on weekends to ensure they have enough hours of training, she said.

Also similar to other dual enrollment programs, the school will pay tuition for the students, which is usually $1,350 for the class National Ambulance offers, but will be reduced for Chicopee High and will be affordable since the system will not have to pay benefits or other expenses to the trainers. The School Department is also hoping to receive a grant to cover some of the costs, Blanchard said.

Since people must be 18 to take the national certification test to become EMTs, the class will only be open to seniors since most will be eligible to take the test when they finish the class or soon after so the information will still be fresh in their minds, she said.

The first course will begin in January at the start of the second semester, which will still give educators and National Ambulance employees some time to work out final details and recruit students, both of which have been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

The plan is to start with no more than 18 students so there is enough academic support and any problems can be ironed up quickly. “We don’t want to go too big too soon,” Kruser said.

The class will first be open to students in the health sciences and criminal justice academies. Those who are in the Junior ROTC program will also be eligible since students get an extra boost if they join the military as a certified EMT, Blanchard said.

“There is such a shortage of EMTs, I think this is a pathway for us to get trained employees,” said Roberto Nieves, director of business development for National Ambulance. There is such a shortage of EMTs, ambulance companies in the region are working together to make sure all calls are answered.

Students who take the class but haven’t passed the exam yet could also work as van drivers for the company while they wait to be certified, he said.

The high school students will get all the same about 185 hours of training any other EMT student receives. Currently, the instructors are talking about adding a Saturday course once a month so students will receive all the hours they need before they graduate and have plenty of hands-on practice with the equipment, including programmable medical dummies, that are located in National’s classrooms, Nieves said.

The one difference is the course for high school students will include a strong career component, he said.

EMT training can lead to multiple careers in the health field, including paramedics, nurses, doctors, physician assistants and others. It can be a beginning point, and in some cases a requirement, to other careers, he said.

Many fire departments require recruits to be certified EMTs. Right now National is losing a lot of its EMTs and paramedics to fire departments because there is a shortage of firefighters, he said.

“It can be a great career for people who are not interested in going to college right away,” Nieves said, adding National also hires college students part-time or for summers.

Beginning EMTs generally earn about $15.50 an hour. National also offers a paramedic class that they will offer their EMTs at a low cost as long as they agree to a commitment to remain with the company for a few years, he said.

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