Becoming an EMT – A serious and fulfilling role
Once a year, Bartow-Frank-Durbin Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad EMT Janet Ghigo offers an EMT class to the public.
In her 16th year of teaching, Ghigo started this year’s class on August 19 – the beginning of a three month training that will put students to the test in every possible way to prepare them for the role as an EMT.
“I got into EMS just because I’ve always worked in one flavor of healthcare or another and when we moved here, I heard they needed some more EMTs and I thought, ‘oh, might as well use my experience and do this,’” Ghigo said. “I’ve been doing it ever since. Everybody’s experiences are so different and we’re going to be sharing a lot of that. A lot the EMT class is – what I’m going to be doing – I don’t teach you anything. I’m going to facilitate your learning. The main thing that I want to have you learn is that an awful lot of this stuff is common sense or something you already know, you just may not know the word for it.”
The EMT course consists of two to three classes a week for three months, covering the gambit of healthcare from checking vital signs to emergency medicine to trauma and HAZMAT. By the end of the course, students will have 150 hours of training.
Along with the classes, students are required to log in some time in the field, as well.
“You’ll see on your schedule after September 24, it says students are able to start clinical experience,” Ghigo said. “Last year was the first year that we ever had students go out and do actual assessments of patients. The way it is set up is you have to do assessments on ten patients before you are eligible to take your final exam.”
Ghigo said students are welcome to go on runs with rescue squads as well as visit patients at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital or residents at the nursing home in order to do their assessments.
In the Emergency Medical System, there are four levels of volunteers – the EMR or emergency medical responder; EMT, emergency medical technician; AEMT, advanced emergency medical technician; and paramedic.
“We basically have the EMTs and paramedics,” Ghigo said. “I don’t teach the first responders class because there’s no point in spending a lot of time if the only thing you can do at the end of the class is hold a patient’s hand. You can do that right now. I do a two hour first aid class so you can stop the bleeding and hold the patient’s hand. To take the paramedic class, you have to be an EMT first. This is the first three months of any paramedic class.”
Most of the techniques and knowledge garnered in the EMT course come from history and research of how soldier’s injuries were treated in wartime.
“As long as we’ve had wars, which is just about as long as we’ve had people I’d say, the people that win the wars are the ones that can patch up the wounded the best,” Ghigo said. “It kind of goes together. You’ve all heard stories of what the medical crews during the Civil War were doing. There’s stuff that we do later, on triage, that was developed by Napoleon’s army and my great-grandfather was in Napoleon’s army as a surgeon.”
Sometimes medical professionals learn to do the exact opposite of what they were taught after experiencing the front lines.
“A lot of information has come out of all the wars in Iraq,” Ghigo said. “One of the critical things they’ve learned in the war in Iraq is that you can put on a tourniquet and leave it on for hours. When you took your first aid class, you were told it was a last resort and you assumed you were going to lose whatever was downstream from a tourniquet. I’ve been teaching that for years and years. Only in Iraq, they’ve found, you put the tourniquet on and they get you to the hospital – it’s been on there for four hours and everything is just fine.”
The development of EMT training really began 1966 with the release of the book “Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society,” published by the Department of Transportation. The book was a culmination of research the National Highway Traffic and Safety Authority conducted on car crashes.
“Whenever there’s a crash, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Authority comes in and analyzes the whole crash and what could have been done better,” Ghigo said. “How could we have kept people from dying? It was from those analyses and working with the Department of Transportation that they decided if a lot of these people had gotten treated soon after the wreck, they might have lived and that is where the DOT got into development of the book.”
In her years as an EMT and instructor, Ghigo has seen a change in the way volunteers work together on a call – something she partially attributes to the classes being county-wide.
“It’s been a long time since I began teaching and I know a lot of people in the community just as a result of having them in the class,” she said. “Something I’ve noticed that’s been a difference between ‘92 and 2012, if we had something like the fire down here or the fire up at Bartow, one of those things where we’re pulling people in from everywhere, people are working together so much better. It has really made a difference.”
The EMT course is open to anyone interested in learning to be an emergency medical technician or for EMTs who need to renew their certification.