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Class During Covid: Paramedic Academy perseveres through pandemic

Graduates now serving communities; Madison College adds high tech solution to alleviate space constraints
Published: Jun. 11, 2021 at 1:30 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With COVID-19 cases soaring last summer and fall, some paramedic training programs around the nation shut down. At Madison College, they were determined to persevere through the pandemic because the need for trained paramedics was too great. Madison College Paramedic Program Director Brandon Ryan said, “These communities need providers, and we didn’t take a pause.”

The Paramedic Academy, which we’ve been following since September 2020 for this Class During Covid series, is an intensive hands-on training program for future paramedics. Instructors came up with a plan to safely hold Paramedic Academy classes in-person. While COVID limited some of the opportunities for the students to get clinical experience at places like hospitals and care centers, in the end all ten students graduated, becoming paramedics in area communities. (See quotes from three Paramedic Academy graduates attached to this article).

Ryan said, “We learned a ton. Primarily, patience. You can observe things like the resilience of the students, we have an amazing faculty, which we knew beforehand, but everyone was working toward a common goal. And to be able to successfully graduate all of our Academy class and all of our other students is just amazing. It’s a huge accomplishment.”

One of four new simulated ambulances Madison College Emergency Medical Services students will...
One of four new simulated ambulances Madison College Emergency Medical Services students will use for training.(Madison College)

Classroom space was at a premium throughout the year. That, and the reduced clinical experience opportunities, sparked a creative idea: What if Madison College purchased simulated high-tech ambulances EMS students could use to further their training? Madison College Human and Protective Services Simulation Coordinator Joshua Crosby came up with the idea of using Cares Act funding to purchase four simulated ambulances, and the college was able to get the purchases approved.

A look through the rear door of a simulated ambulance Madison College EMS students will now...
A look through the rear door of a simulated ambulance Madison College EMS students will now train in.(Madison College)

Crosby said, “This is a simulated ambulance and a simulated environment for the students, where we can put them in an immersive environment instead of an ambulance. During COVID, we were unable to get into those “ride sites” (hospitals and care centers), and so now we’re able to put them in there (simulated ambulances). We can get four students in there, they can be seat-belted, they can utilize the cardiac monitors, the bags, and do actual patient care as they would when they’re going to the hospital.”

Tasha Kirch with Madison Fire Department
Tasha Kirch with Madison Fire Department(MFD)

Each simulated ambulance has the equipment found in the back of a real ambulance, along with cameras and monitors so instructors and other students can watch and learn as EMS students train inside. There’s just no truck cab or chassis attached, otherwise it’s like a real ambulance. In the future, they might be able to obtain funding to upgrade the units so they rock or move to simulate what it’s like to administer aid during a real ambulance call.

Allie Feys with Madison Fire Department
Allie Feys with Madison Fire Department(MFD)

Crosby added, “When they leave here, they have to be able to function in the back of the ambulance. We as paramedics/EMTs, this is our office, and we just couldn’t give that environment before. I think now the student realizes that space is tight, it’s hard to manipulate, hard to work in this environment, giving that student that real world application that we couldn’t give with COVID. If we run into another scenario where we can’t get students in a clinical setting, this would supplement that for them. We are super excited to bring these to the college, to bring these to this area. It’s something that not a lot of schools and programs have in our area. I think it gives the students something they can’t get anywhere else, and we’re excited to implement this through all levels.”

Heather Seeber with Madison Fire Department
Heather Seeber with Madison Fire Department(MFD)

Ryan agreed, adding, “You can take a group of 2 or 3 students out here, run through a scenario to reinforce the learning. We didn’t have that space available before…and now we do. So, this is a huge step forward "

They’re moving forward, embracing the lessons learned by looking back on a very challenging year.

Brandon said, ”We definitely have a better playbook to draw from. We have an idea of what it looks like to pivot really quickly, and we did a lot of creative thinking to achieve our goals. Hopefully, that kind of creative spark that came out of this, we just keep rolling with it. The students, the instructors, they were all amazing. They came in focused, they were prepared….they’re going to be wonderful providers, and the communities they serve are lucky to have them. Yeah. I’m very proud.”

Click here for information on the Madison College Paramedic Program.

Click here for information on the Madison College EMT Program.

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