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Pa. EMS camp gives teens hands-on experience

EmergyCare’s Camp EMS offers a view into a career in EMS with hands-on training and demonstrations


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By Keith Gushard
The Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE, Pa. — EmergyCare’s Camp EMS is a different kind of summer camp for teens, focusing on emergency medical services.

The camp also serves as a recruitment tool to find future EMS people, according to Jim Kifer, the camp’s director. Kifer is the external education and training manager for EmergyCare, the nonprofit ambulance company.

“We started in 2013 and the purpose was to get youth interested in the EMS profession,” Kifer said.

The camp has been held this week on the campus of Allegheny College for teens ages 14 to 17.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of disruption in the healthcare and emergency medical services fields with a lot of people dropping out of the professions.

Camp EMS itself wasn’t held in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic, but restarted in 2022 as a way to try to get new personnel in the pipeline, Kifer said.

“It’s no secret there is a nationwide shortage of EMS personnel. In Pennsylvania, it’s near a pandemic level (of need),” he said. “Adults just aren’t getting into this profession. We’ve had some people with EmergyCare working 30 years and they are aging out.”

This year’s camp has 42 attendees getting hands-on skills training as well as demonstrations and lectures. There are attendees from as far away as Florida and Massachusetts.

“We want to get them interested, and, hopefully, they come work for Emergycare or volunteer with their local EMS services to help that void,” Kifer said.

The learn-by-doing activities are the appeal, according to campers.

“It’s been very hands-on, so you’re learning a lot, but also applying those things,” said Nova Davis, 17, of Erie. Davis is studying to be an emergency medical technician or EMT. “It’s not so textbook as you might expect.”

“We’ve all bonded over doing something we love and we’re very passionate about it,” Davis said of why she likes the camp. “We’ve all been able to come together.”

Frankie Allison, 14, of Greenville, called the camp “a super fun experience. I plan on coming back next year, hopefully as a senior cadet.”

Allison plans on becoming a nurse and wants to become a certified nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

“I’m getting the means to learn medical stuff that I wouldn’t be able to learn on my own like be CPR certified,” he said. “I’m meeting new people in fire departments and EmergyCare. I’m learning a lot from them.”

The total experience makes the camp unique, Kifer said.

“There are a couple of day programs, but we’re the only program of this capacity anywhere in the country which is why we accept kids from outside the region,” Kifer said.

The camp does have a $200 fee to attend the program.

It also invites up to eight attendees a year to return the next year as senior cadets to take on student leadership roles.

“What makes our program so unique, too, is at graduation we hand out up to four $500 scholarships for EMT training to help pay to get them into a(n EMT) program,” Kifer said.

In Pennsylvania, a person can become a certified EMT at age 16, Kifer said.

Graduation ceremonies for Camp EMS were held Friday night at Allegheny College.

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