July 17th, 2024

Paramedics share life-saving skills with high school students

By BRENDAN MILLER on March 7, 2024.

Grade 12 students Laure Destop, Vittorio Calafa and Danica Seitz participate Wednesday in a hands-on learning and skills day with volunteer paramedics at Medicine Hat High School.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER


Local paramedics volunteered time Wednesday to provide students insight and hand-on experience on how they treat patients in the back of the ambulance during a medical emergency.

Several Medicine Hat High School students spent the day meeting paramedics, asking questions about their job and gaining a deeper education about the profession by learning hands-on life-saving procedureslike airway management, suturing, using IVs and IOs, as well as dealing with spinal injuries.

“It’s very tactile,” said Tara McCullough, organizer and paramedic. “Because people don’t learn just by listening, they need to do it, they need to feel it. It’s fascinating for them, if they want to ask questions they can ask whatever and we will be honest with them.”

McCullough is currently working toward her health and science degree and researching effective recruiting strategies for the paramedicine field. With the help of about a dozen volunteer paramedics, she decided to organize a learning and skills day at the high school to showcase the career opportunities available in an industry pressed to find new workers.

“Hopefully we’ll get more paramedics in the future, because right now we don’t have a lot,” said McCullough. “I decided to go to high schools with Grade 10 to 12 students (who are) figuring out what they want to do and they’re going to maybe consider this as a future.”

High school staff say students embraced the opportunity to see what being an EMS looks like, and some are even now considering it as a future career.

“These kids are so stoked,” said Jennifer Matt, who teaches anatomy, physiology and biology. “I’ve had more than a handful of students already say, ‘I can do this,’ which is phenomenal.

“Most kids have no idea and then they get a taste of what this career looks like. And then they can actually see this is something that I would love to do.”

Using mannequins and other medical apparatus, students were taught skills like how to find a blood vein while inserting an IV, how to perform CPR, or how to keep a patient’s body secure on a stretcher.

“Working on stitching people up doing IV, so getting the needle in them,” said Gabriel Rahn, Grade 12, who said he plans to become a veterinarian. “So it’s just hands-on stuff, learning just about everything that you can do.”

Soaking in information like a sponge, Rahn says the volunteer paramedics shared their real-life experiences with students about the daily benefits and challenges that come with the job.

“They’ve all done this dozens and dozens of times in the field, as well as a classroom,” says Rahn. “So they’ve definitely got lots to share.”

Zaynna Willoughty, Grade 12, says she doesn’t plan on pursuing a career in the medical field, but she learned how paramedics respond to and handle an emergency with professionalism.

“I thought it was really interesting to see the different levels there are and like the different severities,” says Willoughty. “It’s just so important to know the different steps and the things that could happen, I think.”

Students were paired into groups and rotated between different stations run by the volunteer paramedics. Along with the hands-on learning demos, paramedics also provided information on advanced care and transporting patients by air ambulance.

“When kids are inspired to meet their potential, or to see and have a vision of what their life could look like, it makes all of this worth it,” said Matt. “So I’m really excited and grateful for this opportunity.”

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