Story and Photo Courtesy of the Rock County Star Herald
By Lori Ehde
If local residents think they may be interested in becoming an emergency medical technician, now would be a good time to start training.
“Rock County and Sanford Hospital Luverne need a few good, compassionate, community- and service-oriented men and women to become EMTs,” Diane Westenberg wrote in an e-mail to the Star Herald. Westenberg, marketing coordinator for Sanford Hospital Luverne, worked with Ambulance Director Gary Holmgren to compile the following question-and-answer piece to help people decide if becoming an EMT is right for them.
What qualities should people have to be/become an EMT?
They must be at least 18 years of age and be compassionate, community-oriented and have a desire to help others.
Do EMTs need to live and work in Luverne?
Because EMTs must respond to emergency calls as quickly as possible (average response time is around five minutes), they must either live or work within Luverne city limits when on call, or both. For example, EMTs who live outside of Luverne city limits, but work in Luverne, could be on call during work hours while in Luverne (with their employers’ approval). Or they may live in Luverne and be on call while at home and in Luverne city limits, but work outside of town.
Could my call schedule be arranged to fit my job schedule?
EMTs typically determine their own call schedules, taking as much or little call time as they wish. Gary Holmgren, NREMT-P, Rock County/Sanford Hospital Luverne Ambulance Manager, said Rock County EMTs cover 12-hour shifts, usually 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. EMTs trade shifts with each other as needed to help each other out and accommodate each other’s schedules.
How much and what type of training is required to become an EMT?
EMT training classes can be taken online through Minnesota West Community & Technical College. Two four-month sessions are offered each year, starting in late August and early January. The class takes approximately 110 to 120 hours to complete and includes periodic hands-on skills assessments.
Is the training free?
Yes, Sanford Hospital Luverne will cover EMT training fees when students commit to serving a minimum of two years on the Rock County/Sanford Hospital Luverne Ambulance.
Are there continuing education requirements?
Yes. EMTs are required to complete 24 hours of continuing education per year (or 48 hours every two years) and successfully complete a hands-on skills test every two years to retain their EMT certification.
Ambulance staff meetings are held once a month (the first Tuesday evening of each month).
What are the rewards of being an EMT?
EMTs often talk about how good it feels to help the sick and injured and the opportunity to grow. EMTs also teach community members and organizations how to save lives, because they’re certified to offer trauma, safety, and health-related community education. They give presentations at driver education classes, offer defibrillator and CPR classes in the community, and work in conjunction with county fire departments and law enforcement. These opportunities are also chances to meet new people and make more connections in the community.
Are EMTs paid for their on-call and active working time?
There’s a nominal hourly compensation for being on call, and a separate rate for active response time.
EMT rookie reflects on first six months of emergencies
Beth Bartels, Luverne, is one of Rock County’s newest EMTs, receiving her license in January. Bartels, who is the director at Rock County Opportunities, said she had professional reasons for seeking EMT certification.
For one thing, she said RCO clients have medical needs that sometimes result in emergencies. Last year, she said there were several emergencies in a short time period when the ambulance was called to RCO. “I just kept thinking it would be nice to have those skills, rather than stand by and watch when help arrives,” Bartels said. Also, she said, being an EMT was the first step in getting certified to train RCO employees in CPR, first aid, and blood-borne pathogens. Every year employees need to be retrained, and every new employee that’s hired needs to be trained. “That’s an expense to RCO, so now I can do it in-house and that saves us money,” Bartels said.
But Bartels said she’s glad — as a mother of three — to have EMT skills. “Now I know these things. If my kid falls and hits his head, I know what to look for and what to do,” she said. “Believe me, with three kids I see a lot of scary situations.”
During her EMT training, she had to participate in 30 ambulance calls before getting certified. Bartels went on 40. And she’s participated in plenty of calls since January as well. “You average one or two per shift,” she said. “Some shifts are none, and then we’ll have a slew in one day.”
Other than her professional and family reasons for becoming an EMT, Bartels admits she thrives on the excitement of an emergency. “It satisfies the adrenaline-seeking part of my personality,” she said. “When you go out on a call and see someone without a heartbeat and they’re brought back to life and they’re sitting there talking to you … that’s pretty cool. … It’s hard to find words to describe all that. She said responding to each call, not knowing what awaits her, is also part of the thrill. “It’s never the same thing twice,” she said. “You’re never sure what you’re going to or what you’re going to find.”
She said anyone considering becoming an EMT should be aware that it’s a commitment of time — both for the training and for the service. “People need to be aware it’s not an easy process. There’s a lot of studying and testing, and it took time away from my family to do it,” she said. “It’s tricky, but it’s so, so worth it. I’m so glad I did it.” Ultimately, she said, the rewards of helping people far outweigh the time and work required for the certification. “It’s nice to be able to ease suffering a little bit,” Bartels said. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of talking them through what they’re going through and helping them feel a little less anxious.”
Registration for the next EMT training class begins Aug. 23; training begins Aug. 28. Anyone interested in becoming an EMT should complete a job application at the Sanford Hospital Luverne Human Resources Department, or click HERE to complete an online application. The hospital will then register EMT candidates for the training course.
For more information or to submit an application, contact the Sanford Hospital Luverne Ambulance Department at (507) 449-1275, or the Human Resources Department at (507) 449-1247.