By Stephanie Ball
Glass fragments flew from the car’s windshield and onto the parking lot as the Brookhaven College students used axes to break out the window. Cold rain soaked the students’ firefighter uniforms as they practiced a night crash site rescue. Instantly hands shot up as the students were asked who wanted to be the first Jaws of Life practitioner.
Richard Campbell, lead emergency medical services instructor and Farmers Branch Fire Department paramedic, led the rescue practice Nov. 2 with Christopher Malvik, emergency medical services instructor and CareFlight 911 for Johnson County. Campbell told students to get used to working in the cold and rain and to take it slow.
“We are not in a hurry, the main priority is to be safe for the person’s safety and ours,” Campbell said. “Work smarter, not harder.”
Graham’s Wrecker Service donated the car and the FBFD works with the Brookhaven Emergency Medical Technician Program each semester to provide real-life training. The program includes EMT, paramedic training and extensive instruction in anatomy and physiology. According to Campbell, the goal of training is to have as much realistic and hands-on experience as possible.
Students work with equipment used in fire departments such as Stryker stretchers, 10 new helmets used at the extrication and three different electrocardiogram monitors. The newest human-patient simulator, called Hal, is being put into service for the first time. Hal is controlled by instructors who can make him blink, bleed, breathe, exhibit signs of cardiac arrest and more.
Kyle Green, an EMS student and FBFD paramedic said it is different working on a simulator and not a real person. “I have gained a lot of confidence and knowledge with the right experience and skills and am better prepared to work at the fire station,” Green said.
The instructors are currently working as firefighters, EMS and paramedics while teaching. Campbell said it can be a challenge to balance jobs.
“I got off shift this morning and then came to Brookhaven,” Campbell said. “We work on holidays, our children’s birthdays and the days no one wants to work but we are making a difference in someone’s life.”
Alex Stadthagen, EMS program director and Irving paramedic, said there are aspects setting this program apart from others such as the highest pass rate for the state registry. The program is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, the Texas Department of State Health Services and is an American Heart Association training site. The X Building facility was built specifically for the program with a stairwell, which dead-ends, for chairlift exercises and a full-scale ambulance simulator.
“This is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle, and students need the experience and skills for each situation,” Stadthagen said.
Students are put in real-life situations such as a wilderness rescue in the woods and a practice hotel room where students rescue human-patient simulators using medical and airway kits. Paramedics ride with area fire departments, and the EMT class participates in ambulance ride-outs and hospital rotations.
Malvik said this is the best program he has dealt with and it has a nice atmosphere. “We are raising the bar, and there are challenges faced such as coping with the emotional stress,” Malvik said.
Stadthagen said he advises students to talk with family and current students if they are interested in the program and to have a personality to deal with the stress. “When the alarm goes off, you jump up and go, and learn to plan your life around your shift,” Stadthagen said. “We can’t make value judgments; we go there and do what we need to do.”