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UD students learn EMS skills in partnership with local fire companies
Patricia Hayes works with a patient

​Patricia Hayes, who is considering a career as a trauma surgeon, volunteers with Christiana Fire Company's emergency medical services.

The University of Delaware is joining forces with local fire companies on emergency medical services (EMS), providing assistance to the companies and valuable experience to students eyeing careers in health care.

During the summer semester, Christiana Fire Company facilitated an inaugural course, MEDT267 – Seminar: Emergency Medical Services. The course is set up so that the instructors are fire company members and UD’s Don Lehman (Medical Laboratory Sciences) serves as the course director of the three-credit class.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” explained Deputy Chief of EMS Hank Smith of Christiana Fire Company. “We need more EMS volunteers and UD students need patient-contact hours. The first class was a big success.”

Patricia Hayes, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, says her aim is to keep patients physically safe and emotionally stable. 

More than 20 UD students participated in the EMS course, drawn primarily from health sciences, biology and pre-med programs.

For undergraduate students pursuing a health or medical career, experiential learning is critical. Patient-contact hours go beyond shadowing or observation; students must quite literally provide some kind of healthcare to a patient. For a student with aspirations of, for example, medical or physician assistant school, an applicant may not even receive an interview without a few thousand hours under her belt. Working with EMS professionals is among the most intense experiences available.

In this EMS seminar, course topics included anatomy, physiology, CPR, triage, medical assessment and trauma. Some parts of the course took place at the fire company; other segments were offered online. More than 20 UD students participated, drawn primarily from health sciences, biology and pre-med programs.  

“We have to take this very seriously. People’s lives are in our hands,” added EMS training coordinator captain Tamara Skis, who got involved in teaching five years ago. “And the students did. They achieved a 100 percent pass rate.”

Patricia Hayes with a patient

​Patricia Hayes, shown working in an ambulance, says her aim is to keep patients physically safe and emotionally stable.

The EMS training or involvement in the fire company doesn’t end at the end of the semester. More than half of the students are now Christiana Fire Company volunteers, involved in its field training program and pursuing EMS certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Christiana also integrated non-UD students into the course — existing fire company volunteers, who wanted to take EMS training. This approach allowed Smith and Skis to better integrate UD students into the fire company and make them a part of the close-knit community.

“I told people we need to stop referring to them simply as ‘the UD students.’ They are a part of our fire company now,” said Smith.

Joining the fire company also gives these Blue Hens other opportunities. As one of the busier fire companies in Delaware, Christiana Fire Company regularly interacts with medical directors and hospital staff from around the state — all important contacts for up-and-coming medical professionals.

Calm under pressure

Hayes of Dover, Delaware, is one the UD students now volunteering at the fire company. The St. Thomas More High Academy graduate was recently commended by Daniel Sutton, a career firefighter and EMT, for her work at the scene of a car crash.

During an entrapment on I-95, Hayes darted into the back seat of a vehicle attempting to maintain manual C-spine stabilization of a patient, who was belligerent and non-cooperative. She did her best to control and protect the patient while Sutton facilitated a partial roof removal.

“Having never been inside of a working extrication and having no prior exposure to such incidents, she performed very well, maintaining her professional composure throughout the incident,” Sutton said. “She continuously engaged her patient while in the vehicle, demonstrating exceptional skill and poise during the extrication.”

“You have to continually talk to your patient while monitoring pulse, motor, and sensory function,” Hayes said. “We’re there to keep them physically safe and emotionally stable.”

Hayes, who is also working on a minor in medical diagnostics, said she is drawn to helping people in emergency situations. She hopes to one day become a trauma surgeon.

Plans for additional courses

After the initial success, UD will offer two courses over Winter Session — one with Christiana Fire Company and the other through Aetna Hose Hook & Ladder Company in Newark. The plan is to offer courses again in the summer of 2018.

“In a condensed semester, the winter will be intense,” Skis said. “We want students to be aware of that going in. But the impact they can have is absolutely worth it.”

Article by Dante LaPenta; photos by Evan Krape

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Sophomore biology major Patricia Hayes is one of about 20 UD students who took a new course in emergency medical services and now volunteers with a local fire company.

​Sophomore biology major Patricia Hayes completed a new course in emergency medical services and now volunteers with a local fire company.

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