Class During Covid: Madison College Paramedic Academy students and instructors adapt as semester moves forward

Simulation “manikins” offer hands-on clinical experience
Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 6:00 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -At a time when many try to avoid those who are ill, Madison College Paramedic Academy students are learning advanced skills to help save them.

When you talk to students enrolled in Paramedic Academy, it’s not long before the words “help” or “helper” come up. Heather Seeber said she’s enrolled, “probably because of my want to help people.” Taschia Kirch, said, “Being a paramedic is not only about being able to help people--not just women, or women of color--but people of color in general who could be doing this.” And Allie Feys added, “Being a paramedic, I’m actually able to intervene and help more.”

Madison College Paramedic Program Director Brandon Ryan said the fall semester has been a success so far. “It’s actually been working very well. Students are rising to the challenge. They are really engaged. They’re motivated, and I feel like we’re having a lot of success with individual students and as a program as a whole--even with the challenges of COVID.”

The Paramedic Academy is one of a limited number of courses being held in-person on the Madison College campus. By following COVID-19 protocols, most of the students have still been able to meet in person to learn the vital hands-on skills necessary to become a paramedic. Currently, as of October 30th, three students are learning virtually due to a possible COVID-19 exposure. The other students are meeting in person.

One big change this year: Very few of the paramedic students have been able to participate in clinical experience, where they get hands-on training with doctors, nurses, and patients at area hospitals and care centers.

Ryan said, “A large part of our program is the clinical aspect, where students actually go out into hospitals and care facilities and get to see real human beings who are ill and injured. They’re able to be part of that care team at the hospital and treat that patient. They get to do live skills like IVs, maybe an airway management, medication pushes, and they get to see what the full process is. Because of the rising number of cases in Dane County and across the state, they said this is the time when we need to just kind of pause on that...let everything calm down...and then we’ll start back up again.”

Ryan said instructors have found a work-around to give students that hands-on experience, using high-tech medical “manikins” that simulate patient’s symptoms.

Madison College Paramedic Academy students practice skills on a "sim manikin".
Madison College Paramedic Academy students practice skills on a "sim manikin".(Madison College)

Student Allie Feys said, “I don’t know how clinicals will look down the road. We need to be flexible and it’s uncertain. However, I’m super happy to be here in person, ask the questions I need, get the hands-on reps I need and practice some of that stuff.”

Ryan said it’s that type of attitude that’s making the changes work. “The students are great. They are driven. They have chosen this. They want this as their preferred career direction or career choice. They want this just as much as we want it for them.”

Click here for information on Madison College Paramedic Program, or here for information on the Madison College EMS Program.

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