Dozens of students in the Emergency Medical Technician program are voicing concerns about the quality of instruction,
the leadership of the program and their ability to do their jobs effectively after leaving the Central Oregon Community College EMS program.
Students say they have complained to COCC Dean Diana Glenn and Vice-President of Instruction Karin Hilgersom, who oversee the program.
But while administration has listened, students say nothing is being done to fix the problems and they are questioning whether they are getting what they paid for.
Glenn said COCC is committed to making the EMS program work for students.
“We work hard with our partners to provide graduates with the skills needed to be successful in the field,” Glenn
But students cite a list of concerns that stem from the leadership of EMS program director Vicky Ryan.
Among their concerns are:
• Instruction from some faculty who, for students, did not seem competent in the areas they were teaching and inappropriate behavior from some teachers, including improper sexual comments and criticisms of other instructors
• High turnover of faculty members who did appear to students to be highly qualified to teach the material.
• Students say they are routinely charged fees that seem inappropriate. For example, lab fees were charged for a transportation class when students never actually used the program’s ambulance.
• Students say they feel they were misled on the accreditation of the program.
• In the past, multiple attempts were allowed when students took exams and quizzes. At some point, some faculty sayRyan told them to end this practice, but students complained that at least one instructor permitted his class to take tests multiple times, which students thought could lead to unfairness in grades.
• Finally, students question the reputation of the COCC EMS program in the Central Oregon community. They point to a defunct ambulance, instruction that is not up to par and a culture of unprofessionalism.
College administration requested all questions from The Broadside on these concerns in writing, but after nearly one week, some administrators responded in full, some partially or in the case of Vicky Ryan and Michael Ryan, not at all.
“ The competitive entrance programs often have high levels of stress and high levels of tension,” said Ron Paradis, director of College Relations.” This is not the first time we’ve had concerns about the EMS program. Throughout the last two decades there have been other issues.”
Paradis said that this tension and stress could have lead to some of the students concerns, he did say that there were more than normal amounts of complaints regarding the EMS program this year.
Liz Glanville, a COCC EMS student, relocated to Oregon from Washington where she had been an Emergency Medical Technician for seven years.
“I am thoroughly disappointed with the (COCC) program,” she said.
Glanville said that among other concerns she has about the program, Vicky Ryan gave her bad information that led to her losing her status as a Washington EMT. Glanville said Ryan told her she needed to retake a basic EMT class to get certified in Oregon, which Glanville later learned was false and led to a delay in her graduation.
“Mrs. Ryan, whether intentionally or unintentionally, misinformed me about the process for this and I have subsequently been fighting to reinstate my Washington EMT and regain the job I lost as a result of this debacle,” she said.
Glanville and other students say her story is an example of problems and confusion within in the program as a result of Ryan’s leadership.
“We always listen to student complaints,” said Ron Paradis, director of College Relations.”Sometimes if a student comes in with complaints about a particular person, we are not going to answer those particular questions but it doesn’t mean we won’t follow up.”
Student Kyle Peterzen said his top concern is that he was misled about the quality of the program.
The EMS program’s website states: “With top paramedics serving as your instructors, your classes are taught by the best in the field, by people who have been there, by people who’ve served on the front lines of medical emergencies.”
But Peterzen said that strong instructors quit the program and students were left with instructors who had little experience, including Michael Ryan, Vicky Ryan’s husband.
“He (Michael Ryan) misinformed us on so many different protocols and basic anatomy,” said Peterzen. “[The
previous instructor] left and we had been so focused on being the best.
Once he was gone, we looked around at the department. A lot of us were really disappointed with what we saw.”
Peterzen said he has contacted staff in fire departments in the area about the reputation of the COCC EMS program and received negative feedback about its reputation.
However, Division Chief Doug Kelly, at the Redmond Fire Department, did not say anything negative about the program, stating only that he had heard that the it was being restructured and that a new position was being created.
Current students of COCC’s EMS program work with Kelly as volunteers.
“I have not heard any negative comments from my students,” said Kelly.
Paradis said that they are working on possible changes to the program but that “no changes have been made as of yet.”
While Glanville and Peterzen were willing to speak publicly, nearly a dozen other students were in contact with The Broadside about their concerns. Most were hesitant to openly discuss the program’s issues for fear of reprisal.
In a March 5,2011 email to students in the EMT classes, Vicky Ryan stressed the importance of attendance and professionalism.
“Be aware that you have been on a working interview with the EMS and Fire communities for the past 6 months and any unethical, inappropriate, or unprofessional behavior is noticed. EMS and Fire are very small communities and you have a choice to either create a good impression of yourself or not” said Ryan in the email.
“A working interview is a good way to put it,” said Darrel Levine, a 17-year veteran of the Bend Fire Department. “Every student leaves an impression when they ride with us or when they do an internship with us. There is no doubt about that. We want to make sure that students know that the competitive process in getting a job does not include personal impressions, at least here in Bend.”
The positive side of Peterzen’s experience is “the support network that has blossomed in the EMS community in Bend, not just in the classes but at the hospital and the firehouse,” he said. “Everyone has been helpful and friendly.”
Despite this, Peterzen said he knows of multiple students who will be leaving the program.
“On paper, they (college administration) do everything right,” he said. “(But) I am not getting the education I was told about.”
Kirsteen Wolf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org