Paramedic Ken Whittaker has a captive audience. All eyes are on him as
he describes his first patient as an EMT—a tiny victim of Sudden
Infant Death Syndrome that he wishes he could forget.
"By the time we got there, the baby was already dead," he says,
"but we did everything we could, not because we thought we could
bring the baby back; we did it for the parents."
"That was my very first call out the door," adds Whittaker, maintaining
close eye contact with his students. "I was one week on the job."
He continues, "There are a lot of emotional things that happen in
this career, people leave this world prematurely. It's OK to ask questions
and get information; that's your job right now, to prepare."
Whittaker's class is made up of 13 senior students from Lowry High
School. The group meets several times a week in the training room at the
Humboldt General Hospital Emergency Medical Services Rescue station where
their ultimate goal will be to pass the National Registry EMT exam by
The collaborative program is a first for Humboldt General Hospital and
the Humboldt County School District, but Superintendent Dave Jensen hopes
it won't be the last.
"This class is a perfect fit with our Career and Technical Education
component," said Dr. Jensen. "CTE is all about preparing students
to contribute to the workplace upon their exit from high school, and this
class certainly does that."
The students, who will log approximately 150 hours of education and training
at HGH EMS Rescue through the end of the school year, will be required
to successfully complete both a cognitive and a psychomotor exam.
Their licensure as an EMT in the State of Nevada will allow them to serve
in the patient compartment of an ambulance. It will also allow them to
use medical equipment such as automatic external defibrillators and deliver
trauma care; they will be educated in a simple way regarding all injuries
On the job, at this level of EMS training, the students will work in a
team environment with more advanced providers such as advanced EMTS and
The NREMT EMT-Basic/EMT cognitive exam is a two-hour computer adaptive
test that covers the entire spectrum of EMS care including airway, ventilation,
oxygenation, trauma, cardiology, medical operations and EMS operations.
The psychomotor examination will allow students to demonstrate competency
in a wide range of emergency care skills such as patient assessment/management
of a trauma patient, patient assessment/management of a medical patient,
cardiac arrest management/AED, bag-valve-mask ventilation of an apneic
patient, spinal immobilization (both seated and supine patient), long
bone fracture immobilization, joint dislocation immobilization, traction
splinting, bleeding control/shock management, upper airway adjuncts and
suction, mouth-to-mouth ventilation with supplemental oxygen, and administering
supplemental oxygen to a breathing patient.
"This class is not for the faint of heart, or the slight of study,"
quips Whittaker of the rigorous demands of achieving EMT status. "I
think these students are finding out that they will have to work very
hard for every level they achieve in the EMS system, including this first
For their part, the students admit the class may be more intensive than
they had initially anticipated. But as student Michael Drake points out,
"This course is not another simple show-up-and-leave-high-school
course. The skills we are learning can mean the difference between life
and death for a person someday down the road."
Student Jordan Mecham agrees. "It is definitely not an easy course,"
she says, "and you have to want to be here to succeed. It is completely
worth it, though."
Tania Alcaraz says she really loves the hands-on aspect of the course.
"It's really good that we get to apply what we learn in the books
to our 'patients' in the class," she says.
Freddie Ziemer says he also enjoys the class's interactions with HGH's
crew members. "One of my favorite parts about the class is when the
teachers tell us stories about their calls," he says.
Sarah Palmer says she is headed toward a career in medicine, so "I
chose to take this EMT course because it was a unique opportunity and
it would give me some exposure to the field of medicine."
Others, including Erika Kirste, would also like to use their newfound skills
following graduation. "After high school I plan on becoming an EMT,"
says Erika, "and someday I would like to attend nursing school. I
chose to take this class because the medical field has always interested
me and this is a great start for my future in the medical field!"
Dusty Hamilton, who aspires to be a flight paramedic one day, says he felt
honored to take the course. "I would like to say that it's a
great honor to be among the first EMT class through the school and I wish
the rest of my class good luck so we can pave the way for all future classes."
Michael Drake agrees. "I am extremely happy to be chosen as one of
the participants in this course. It is a great opportunity and allows
for an experience unlike any that any high school student before us has
undergone. We are lucky to be taught by one of the best EMS and rescue
organizations in the country and it is truly a pleasure to be a part of
Whittaker says it has been an equal pleasure working with the students.
"They are hard working, dedicated, responsible and quick to learn,"
he says. "Those qualities are essential in a good EMT and these young
folks are definitely on their way toward an exciting career in emergency