By Maitiu Millar-Sanchez /The Broadside
Central Oregon Community College’s Emergency Medical Services is a popular program at the college. The college’s webpage for the EMS program states that the program teaches “technical skills and knowledge for employment and advancement in pre-hospital employment. The program contains certification requirements at the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Advanced EMT, and Paramedic levels. Students test through the Oregon Health Authority to complete certification”
Graduates of the EMS program work in a variety of settings. These include “fire departments, private and public ambulance services, hospitals (emergency departments), emergency communication systems, law enforcement agencies, search and rescue, recreation industry, forest service/smoke jumpers, and medical clinics”.
The COCC Paramedicine Program on COCC’s website also states that it “strives to prepare competent entry-level Paramedics, Advanced EMTs, Oregon EMT-Intermediates and EMTs in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills) and affective (behavior) learning domains.” The paramedicine program is a competitive program with limited spots. Admission to the program starts at the beginning of each spring term and applicants are chosen in a selective process that lasts until the end of the spring term.
Hunter Greene is a 19 year old first-year student in Central Oregon Community College’s Emergency Medical Services program and volunteer firefighter with Crook County Fire Department. We sat down with him to talk about his experience in the programs.
The Broadside: What made you want to enroll in Central Oregon Community College’s firefighting/paramedicine program in the first place?
Hunter Greene: It was kind of just on a fluke. I took a year off of school and I thought about what I wanted to do and I wasn’t connecting to any field until my dad mentioned there was a student program at Crook County [Fire Department]. What attracted me was the freedom and the time you have being a firefighter. You do get snatched on calls but you end up almost working less than people who work an 8 to 5 job. That is harder for me than just having to wake up in the middle of the night having to respond to someone’s crisis. There’s at least good intent in the firefighting field than an 8 to 5 job. You’re just kinda working through it. As I progressed through the program I just really started to enjoy it and really threw my whole self into it. That’s been a lot of fun.
Broadside:What is it like going from deciding to enroll in the program to actually being in the program?
HG: It began last spring. I started taking my prerequisite courses for fire academy at Crook County taking a bunch of basic classes like Instant Command, pathogen awareness, all of that stuff then you get to academy. Academy is great because you get to learn all the skills you’ve been reading on for the past two months. Then you start working through the summer and signing up for classes. Honestly, [classes] are super helpful because you have other people with you. You have this huge support group. You have the crew and the students themselves who have gone through the same struggles as you. It all sort of starts off when you get your EMT. I got mine which is exciting. I am on track to qualify for the paramedic course at the moment. At the end of this term, I’ll have all my prerequisites finished. I was taking all my prerequisites this year like anatomy and physiology, doing a bunch of stress management classes or mental health awareness, and a multitude of classes about how to properly communicate with people. Also in the EMT course you’re doing hospital work and a bunch of skills practice which all gets amplified next year if I get into [the paramedicine program]. For EMT’s when you’re first starting out it’s pretty scary. It’s been a lot of fun.
Broadside:So being a part of saving lives and being a first responder comes with a lot of responsibility responding to tough situations, especially at a young age. How does that make you feel?
HG: For me, I’ve luckily had a pretty mellow year compared to other students. We’ve had a few really difficult scenarios. I remember another student went through a really tough time after having to respond to a call for a kid. As you can imagine that’s pretty traumatic. It took him a while to get back to normal but in my case, everything was scary at first. Every little call felt like a tremendous thing. As you progress you realize, for the most part, you’ll have people in a crisis, or at least what they view as a crisis, and you may not feel the same way and then you have those really intense calls where someone is actively dying in front of you and you really have to step up. It’s kind of your game day type of scenario. At the beginning of it, I was honestly having a tough time of it. I was just so stressed out and worried that something could happen to me at any point. It kind of changed my personality for the better. Since then I’ve really become a lot braver. I see [calls] every day and I know I’d rather live my life instead of being afraid of what might happen. I’d say the firefighting field has helped me a lot in life as it is versus taking care through life. I’ve always been a person who stays in their lane and doesn’t really put themselves out there, but I’ve noticed in firefighting that I’ve started laying it on the line a little more and challenging myself for the better!
Broadside: What are the more difficult skills or aspects of the job you’ve had to learn that stand out to you?
HG: Having a lot of empathy. That can be a skill that can be widely overlooked. We go on some calls where you walk into the house and can immediately tell these people don’t tackle good care of themselves and that they’re in an unfortunate situation. Sometimes those people can end up being really rude to you and treat you terribly despite them calling for your help. So learning that skill of empathy and looking at the fact that they’re freaked out, they wanted help, and we’re there to help them so we have to find a way to make that work instead of huffing and puffing about how mean or terrible that person was to us.
Broadside: Are there any experiences in your job or as a student that stand out to you?
HG: For my job, my biggest experience that made me the most happy was probably responding to a call where a lady was bleeding or she popped an abscess on her shin. When we get there she’s bleeding a significant amount and she’s not conscious. So we put a tourniquet on her and transport her and she ends up having a good outcome. Almost a month later she sees us and she looks absolutely phenomenal. It was just total night and day and she was like, “ Thank you for doing that. Thank you for helping out.” I was like “holy crap!” It was just like the most iconic story of you just helped someone out in a really bad spot.
Broadside: What advice would you give to someone interested in COCC’s EMT program?
HG: Try and get into a student program. It’s just so important in a lot of ways. You develop skills you don’t even realize you’re developing. You’re put into scenarios that you’re supposed to be practicing in class. In EMT we have these practical things where you test little skills and you learn to question people in a very specific test-oriented way. But when you get out into real life there’s a huge difference in what happens. It’s no longer a specific test-oriented questioning. You’re asking specific stuff that you can only really learn if you’ve seen it happen before in person. There’s just so much support too. I knew what classes to take because I had people who were saying, “you should take this class and that class” or how to access [a class], you can see what prerequisites you need to take. There’s just a huge support community. I think there’s a lot to benefit for going into a student program. Even though you’re selling your soul for a couple of years it’s worth it. Honestly, I would give anything for it again.