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Mich. EMS students cap off training with real world simulations

Careerline Tech Center students worked through several scenarios evaluating their skills as they prepare for a career in EMS


CTC EMS/Facebook

By Kayla Tucker
Grand Haven Tribune

WEST OLIVE, Mich. — Students studying emergency medical services practiced a variety of scenarios led by area professionals Wednesday morning at Kirk Park.

Local firefighters and paramedics worked with the Careerline Tech Center students through scenarios such as an allergic reaction, cardiac arrest, asthma attack, drowning, chest pain, a burn from a grill, an overdose in the parking lot, and a bicycle accident.

“We try to pick calls that could happen out here,” said Kim Schrader, full-time EMS instructor and certified EMT, pointing to the different areas like the playground, the path to the beach and the water. “It’s kind of like our capstone project — we’re putting together all the skills we’ve learned all year and seeing how we can do that, and getting feedback from alumni ... and a professional.”

At each station, a group of students practiced their triage skills at a scene, with one student playing the victim, or medical patient. Then, they rotated stations, making sure each student went through each unique scenario.

At the playground, a student sat on a bench, making wheezing sounds, while another student told Park Township Firefighter Jacob Mulder the symptoms of the patient, and then gave orders to her classmates to grab different tools to assess the patient.

Since it was a practice scenario, Mulder told the students the vitals of the patient as time went on, so the students could respond accordingly. He advised the students on what order to assess needs in, and said the EMS field is “not black and white, it’s all gray,” so it’s important to be adaptable.

“When in doubt, go back to your basics,” Mulder said. “It’s easy to get tied up in other things.”

Tom Gerger, the supervisor for North Ottawa EMS, said he’s responded to “lots” of calls at the beach, and crowds can be a distraction, along with heat, sand and other weather conditions.

“We have to deal with the families and stuff like that,” said Gerger, who was leading a team of students through a water rescue response at the beach. “It’s (about) coordinating everything. The rescuers are going to be tired, so they’re relying on the new people coming in to help out and continue care.”

When the group of five hiked down the sand hill, they saw a dummy laying in the sand and were told by Gerger the basics of what they were responding to — a person was just pulled out of the water and they needed to assess their breathing.

Shuffling through tools and supplies, the group worked together to do continuous CPR on the dummy and rotate positions, while telling their instructor what their next move was.

When Gerger told the group that their patient didn’t have a pulse, they then took out a practice defibrillator to get the pretend patient’s heart pumping again. As they completed each step, Gerger used a remote to control what the defibrillator machine said, guiding the team on what to do next.

Beachgoers and their dogs watched the students as they carried their patient on a gurney up the beach.

“The most important thing is how they interact with the students, how they take the lead,” said Ryan Bloomquist, director of EMS at Trinity Health Grand Haven, who said he’s hired students from Schrader’s EMS class in the past after seeing their skills on the annual beach day practice.

“We can teach the job, for the most part, as long as they pass the national test, we have no problem training them,” Bloomquist said. “A calm, collected, polite demeanor can really change how a call goes, and that’s your first impression on any patient and that determines how the patient feels about you, and if they’re more willing to call 911 in the future, and that’s what we’re trying to do — get people to call earlier, that way it’s not a catastrophic emergency when we do show up.”

Nuray Mardanova, who plans to study nursing and eventually go to medical school, said running through the scenarios made her feel more prepared to help someone in an emergency.

“These are really important because they could happen on a daily basis,” Mardanova said, who chimed in to answer firefighter Mulder’s questions during the bee sting and asthma scenarios. “You get to feel it out and get more confident in your skills. If someone passes out right in front of me, I know what I’m doing, because we’ve been doing this this whole year.

“That’s why I feel everybody should take something similar to this, even a CPR class, all those things are really important because you could save anybody. It could happen once in your lifetime, but that one time could save somebody’s life.”

Mardanova, 17, said she chose to pursue a career in healthcare after having family members experience medical issues, particularly her mom, who was misdiagnosed because of a lack of translation. Mardanova said she moved six years ago to Holland from Azerbaijan, a small nation on the border of Europe and Asia. She is now a senior at Holland High School.

“We really need young adults going into EMS and this is a great way to get them an education that’s paid for and get them out working without having to make a sacrifice after high school,” said Jim Walters, referencing the Tech Center’s EMS certification program.

Walters is the medical director for the Ottawa County Medical Control Board that oversees EMS in the county and is an emergency room doctor in Grand Haven.

“With the pandemic, we’ve been really short all across healthcare, particularly with EMS, and a lot of the agencies have had a lot of trouble staffing and getting ambulances on the road, and we’ve struggled with that in Ottawa County for the last three, four years consistently. So, a program like this is a huge plus for that.”

Hudsonville High School Senior Ryan Schultz said he plans to use the first responder skills he’s been learning all year in his future career as a police officer.

“Most people trust police officers, and that’s who they call when they need help,” Schultz, 18, said. “I think that’s amazing, and I want to be a part of that.”

In a society where not everyone is supportive or trusting of police officers, Schultz recommended people do more research into what officers do on a daily basis.

As a Grand Rapids Police Department Explorer, Schultz has had the opportunity to shadow officers, do a ride-along and volunteer at department events like Shop with a Cop, where police officers give back to the community and fallen officer memorial events.

“People thank the Explorers for wanting to go into the profession,” Schultz said. “I do see a lot of support and that’s kind of why I want to do it.”

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