New approach to EMS training stresses continuity, mentoring

May 21, 2013

From “New approach to EMS training stresses, continuity, mentoring approach” — A joint effort among three community entities has seen success in a new approach to a traditional emergency medical service training program.

Students this year have been exposed to the new training process organized by leaders from the Kenosha Fire Department, Gateway Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Kenosha Fire Department’s Division Chief of EMS Jim Poltrock said in the past, Gateway had its students complete their field time with the department, but there was little organization and consistency to the process.

“The way the program was set up before was kind of chaotic,” he said. “There was no structure, and students were jumping shifts and were randomly assigned to work with different professionals each time.”

The new approach assigns students to work with a specific EMS person to establish a relationship and better develop their skills and evaluate students more accurately.

“Continuity is key,” Poltrock said. “While working with the same person each day, preceptors are able to monitor what their personal skills are and focus on areas the student needs to improve on. They also become more comfortable in asking questions, because they’ve established more of a relationship.”

Crista Kruse, mentor Kenosha/Racine manager at the University Wisconsin-Parkside, has been involved in the implementation of the new plan this year through the UW-Parkside Center for Community Partnerships. The center bridges the university with nearby communities through extended learning opportunities. She said the more formalized approach is beneficial to students.

“The mentoring approach is kind of a new trend, and research shows it works,” she said. “It’s beneficial to both the employer and the student, so it’s a win-win.”

Both students and preceptors have to go through an application process and meet specific requirements to be a part of the program.

“Our agreement within this joint effort is that we’ll provide our best, and they send us their best,” Poltrock said.

Students in support

Both students and preceptors said the changes are successful and beneficial to everyone.

Kenosha Fire Department Capt. Steve Allemand, an EMS preceptor/peer mentor, said the traditional training program used to be “hit or miss,” because students would come and go, riding with different paramedics at different stations.

“Now, there’s more ownership, so it’s almost like it’s your own kid,” he said. “You can actually keep a better eye on them for how they’re progressing along. It’s a huge difference.”

Allemand said he has always enjoyed teaching and coaching his own children, so he was interested right away in becoming a teacher and mentor.

“Fire and EMS is kind of a family affair, so it really helps out that you have the same person there with you the whole time to get the full experience,” said Steffanie Olson, 24, who is enrolled in the program and close to completing her ride time with the Kenosha Fire Department.

“This program helps build your confidence as a medic, and it also helps facilitate the fact that they know where you’re at with things,” she said. “(Allemand) knows what I’m looking for in my education to make me a well-rounded paramedic at this point.”

Olson was among those who responded to a rollover injury accident on Friday. It was the first time she had been involved with Flight for Life in Kenosha, but she felt prepared.

“I always feel that I have a good support team here,” she said. “Even if I’m not sure on something, I can just look over my shoulder and someone will be there to give me a little extra support. These guys run a good ship, so it’s easy to pick up and jump in.”

Different perspectives

Students work with the same shift every day, so everyone on the shift contributes to the training, Allemand said.

“We all have slightly different perspectives due to our position, age and rank, so it helps to give students a full view of what EMS actually is,” he said.

Overall, Allemand said the program will help southeastern Wisconsin have better EMS care, because the students are better trained for the future.

“It’s a vision that’s long term, and it’s going to be something very positive,” he said. “It’s hard to break the traditions of how things were done, but once people see the benefits to this and the positive repercussions of it, there’s absolutely no way places could not do this.”



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