Class During Covid: Paramedic Academy students now training on-the-job with paramedics in the field
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Since the fall, firefighter Tasha Kirch has been learning the skills of what it takes to become a paramedic in a Madison College classroom. But now, Tasha and her fellow Paramedic Academy students are learning in the field, on actual calls with paramedics.
In between ambulance calls, checking cabinets full of medical equipment in the back of an ambulance at Madison Fire Station #4 Kirch said, “Oh, this is the best hands-on classroom a girl could get. Better than diamonds!”
She’s been a Madison Fire Department firefighter since December of 2019, and enrolled in the Madison College Paramedic Academy to learn how to provide an even higher level of care to those in need. As she heads into the home stretch, she’s ready for the new opportunity, but said it does come with some butterflies. Kirch said, “The first couple of shifts, there was a little bit more nerves. There’s more hands-on, talking with people and engaging not only with the new team members, but the patients themselves, so it’s a transition.”
During the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the academy students have been following COVID precautions, learning their advanced lifesaving skills in a classroom using sophisticated simulation machines, and also sitting through class lectures. Now in the field, Tasha takes the lead on actual Madison Fire Department ambulance calls, backed up by two certified paramedics who supervise and offer advice when needed.
She’s just happy to finally be putting all of that classroom experience over the past half year to use. She said, “I feel like the training for this has been like a marathon...and so we’ve been training and training. I feel like I’m at that marathon and just ready to cross the finish line at this point. "
If all goes according to plan, she’ll finish her coursework and exams and become a certified paramedic with the department this spring. Reflecting on that she said, “It’s going to feel like an anchor that’s been lifted off my shoulders.”
It’s something Kirch has wanted to do since she was young. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a firefighter at 9 years old.” Her dream to serve was actually inspired by a nightmarish Town of Madison fire that killed 5 children who lived across the street from her on Somerset Circle in March of 1990. One of the victims was a 9-year-old, just like Tasha. She said, “I lived at Somerset Circle in 1990 when that big fire happened. I think that’s kind of what got me going on this path.”
Now, with paramedic certification within reach, she’s proud to be taking new steps now down that path of serving others as a Madison Fire Department paramedic. Kirch said, “One of my favorite things is helping and serving the community. It’s a tough job to get...but it is well worth every minute--every blood, sweat, and tear you give. It’s worth it!”
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