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Salt Lake Community College launches hybrid class to fill Utah’s need for rural EMTs

Salt Lake Community College, EMT training class, Riata Cummings, Nov. 11, 2022
courtesy Salt Lake Community College
Salt Lake Community College EMT student Riata Cummings simulates treating a gunshot wound on Nathan Martinez, a certified EMT, while taking her state psychomotor test at the Green River Fire Department in Green River, Utah, Nov. 11, 2022.

A hybrid class at Salt Lake Community College aims to train more emergency responders in rural parts of Utah. Nationally, rural areas have struggled with enough staffing to cover emergency calls, and the state’s Emergency Medical Services director said Utah is no exception.

The new Emergency Medical Technicians class started at the beginning of the 2022 fall semester, and while lectures were held over Zoom, students completed hands-on training at local first-responder agencies.

Kylie Linford, the course coordinator for the EMT class, said students learned things like how to treat different injuries, how to complete full medical assessments, when to administer certain medications and how to interact with patients.

“Identifying issues that are happening, whether it's a medical issue, a trauma issue or both,” she said. “What the life threat is, how to treat it and make sure that these patients can get to further medical care.”

Instead of focusing on teaching people along the Wasatch Front, Russell Malone, Emergency Medical Services program manager at SLCC, said they made the class hybrid so that they could teach students in rural parts of the state. They had students up north outside of Brigham City in Mantua, some students in Emery County and other students on or near the Navajo Nation. By providing a hybrid class, students do not have to drive up to Salt Lake City from Montezuma Creek, which is near the Southeast tip of the state, in order to take the class.

Malone said SLCC decided to focus on training EMTs in rural parts of the state after a Utah State Emergency Medical Services committee meeting on July 13. Utah State Code requires that at least two EMTs respond to the scene of a 911 call. But for some rural counties, finding two available EMTs has proven difficult. During the meeting, Beaver, Piute and Wayne counties all requested waivers to be able to send an Emergency Medical Responder in place of one of the required technicians.

Utah’s Emergency Medical Services program director, Guy Dansie, said EMRs receive less training than EMTs and described it as a “glorified first-aid course.”

The committee approved the waivers, and Dansie said this past July was the first time Utah has ever allowed agencies to have an EMR respond to a 911 call in place of an EMT.

“We don’t want to dumb down the industry. We don’t want less skillful people out there, we’re trying to maintain that higher skill level,” Dansie said. “But we were finding in some areas, the coverage is not there. And so this is a Band-Aid to put on it for the short term.”

There are several reasons that rural areas struggle with having enough EMTs, according to Dansie. One reason is that there are not enough young people signing up as EMTs in rural areas to replace the older EMTs when they retire. Also, Dansie said a majority of EMTs in rural areas are volunteers and either work for a small stipend or completely for free.

About 25 people took the hybrid class this semester. Malone hopes that training more EMTs will help save lives.

“When you don’t have the appropriate person to be able to provide the appropriate care, people suffer,” Malone said. “A lot of techniques take two people to work. If you can’t do it, lives are in the balance.”

The course was offered free of charge to students because the cost was covered by Utah’s Learn and Work Program.

Sixty-nine-year-old Mantua Town Councilmember Karen Nelson took the EMT course and plans to volunteer as an EMT for the local fire department after she passes the National Registry EMT test. She said for small towns, offering this course for free is a big deal.

This past year, Nelson said Mantua paid for one person in the town to get EMT training. But with SLCC’s course, several residents were trained for free.

“So for our small town, that’s kind of a big hit on our budget had we paid for each person to take this course,” Nelson said.

Malone said SLCC plans to continue offering the hybrid EMT course, and the class will start up again in January.

Martha is KUER’s education reporter.
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