Grand County Emergency Medical Services (GCEMS) is looking for more Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT).
To be a certified EMT, you must take a 150-hour class and perform 10 clinical hours. GCEMS is providing a 3-month course beginning Sept. 13.
GCEMS responds to approximately 950 calls per year. Their team serves 10,000 residents and two million annual visitors in 3700 square miles.
“Our calls are seasonal,” said Andy Smith, director of GCEMS. “Our numbers are good for November, December and January. What we need are more active people for the other nine months of the year.”
The Grand County department now has three full-time staff members and 32 volunteers. Twenty-one of those volunteers are active, which means that they are scheduled for at least three 12-hour on-call shifts a month.
Being an active EMT is not easy.
When an EMT is on-call, he or she needs to be available within a five-minute response time, which can make taking a shower or going to the grocery store a difficult task. Most EMTs hold full-time jobs and can only be on-call during their free time. An EMT can not drink alcohol or take any mind altering medications while on call, which can include cough medicine.
And EMTs are paid only $1 an hour while on-call.
However, if a call is made and an EMT goes on an ambulance ride, the EMT will be paid at least $11.32 an hour.
“It is quite a bit of stress,” Smith said. “They need to be ready in five minutes and may have cases that take eight to twelve hours. We ask a lot.”
Students attending the course are expected to be in class 6 to 10 p.m., on Mondays and Thursdays, plus 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays twice a month. The final class is on Dec. 20. The EMT class costs $1000, but GCEMS subsidizes the course for those who complete the training for only $700.
GCEMS is willing to create a payment plan for the classes.
“We don’t keep someone out of the class because of financial hardship,” said Paula Dunham, GCEMS assistant director over training.
Anyone can take the class. No one needs to commit to working for EMS.
“A lot of river guides will take the EMT class,” Smith said. “The cost of the class is the same for everyone.”
During the last class held Fall 2011, six of the eight students are now active EMTs.
If someone does commit to being an active EMT, GCEMS provides a uniform, advanced classes, conferences and monthly Continuing Medical Education.
One perk is providing an ambulance for events, such as movie sets or athletic events. EMTs are paid $20 an hour for events.
“When we’re hired to staff an ambulance for an event, they don’t get paid only if they get a patient, they get paid for the event,” Dunham said. “The uniqueness of this area is that we have events all the time.”
Michelle Peterson is an active EMT. She passed her state exam only two days before she went on her first call. She was starting orientation at GCEMS when she was paged.
The patient was injured in an All-Terrain Vehicle accident in Onion Creek, a remote area about 45 minutes northeast of Moab.
“The rescue was treacherous and required assistance from other county agencies, but we were able to get the patient out of the water still alive. He had some broken bones and abrasion that were managed with bandages and splints, but treating the pneumothorax in his left lung was out our scope,” Peterson said.
A careflight out of Grand Junction, Colo. arrived just as the team had the patient packaged and moved to the landing zone. Her fellow crew member said he had never seen a chest tube placement done in the field and encouraged her to watch.
Peterson positioned herself as close to the patient as possible in the tiny cabin of the helicopter. She handed the flight paramedic items they requested for the procedure to relieve the pressure on the patient’s lung.
“The ‘cool factor’ was pretty high and my adrenaline was pumping hard,” Peterson said. She watched one of her friends from basic training falter as the skin was cut by the scalpel. “I realized that this may not be as much a passion for everyone as it is for me.”
Peterson is now working toward becoming a paramedic. Her training requires nine months of classes, 450 hours of ride-alongs and time spent in the emergency room.