Local fire and rescue collab with NICC to meet hiring needs

Addressing an ongoing workforce shortage of certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic professionals.  

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies and local fire and ambulance departments in northeast Iowa are working together with Northeast Iowa Community College  (NICC) to address an ongoing workforce shortage of certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic professionals.  
The need for more trained EMS personnel to meet increasing demand in northeast Iowa communities follows a similar trend throughout the state. Winneshiek Medical Center (WMC), for example, maintains a paramedic service in Decorah and draws upon EMS volunteers in the communities of Decorah, Burr Oak, Bluffton, Calmar, Castalia, Festina, Fort Atkinson, Frankville, Jackson Junction, Highlandville, Ossian, Ridgeway and Spillville to meet demand for pre-hospital care. 
WMC employs 28 staff members in its ambulance service, but one-third of these personnel are expected to retire in the next five to seven years, according to Steve Vanden Brink, 31-year veteran leader at WMC and Director of Ambulance.
“We’re seeing a continuing decline in EMS because most are aging and they serve as volunteers. We’re looking to create more EMT and paramedic employment positions locally, while continuing to build on our volunteerism,” he said.
NICC partners with local EMS services to deliver EMS training to help meet hiring needs. NICC introduced a HyFlex EMT training model district-wide as a way to address workforce shortages, particularly in rural areas. EMT students attend course lectures online using Zoom and participate in lab sessions in-person. This approach helps address EMT workforce needs without placing the burden on one EMS service to meet minimum class enrollment requirements.
“Agencies in the more rural parts of our district have members who are interested in taking our EMT course, but are unable to get the minimum number of students to run a course at their 
station. The HyFlex EMT option has allowed neighboring departments to pull their members together and host an EMT class in their area. Students can attend lectures online and then all meet face-to-face in a central location to complete their labs and hands-on skill practice,” said Jesse Coulson, EMS program developer for NICC Business and Community Solutions.
The College will also roll out a new EMT course for Oelwein High School in spring 2023 to introduce students to the EMS field, according to Coulson.
“Offering the EMT course in the high schools can inspire young people about a career in EMS. Most people do not know the pathway into EMS, and we are informing students of career possibilities they may have never known,” Coulson said. There will be a limited number of seats for this first course, Coulson added.
The national scope of EMT practice is also expanding nationwide. NICC has invested in stocked “jump bags” for EMT students to manage their own supplies during a course, new manikins for real-world training scenarios, injection simulation props, nebulized medication training equipment, Zoll AutoPulse Resuscitation Systems that provide automated compressions to victims of sudden cardiac arrest and other equipment for instructors and student
Vanden Brink sees potential EMS recruitment opportunities by speaking to high schools and introducing students to careers in the field. 
“We are talking about getting into the schools to talk about EMS. While there are Certified Nurse Aide classes, there isn’t an EMT program. EMS is a profession and developing these skills will take you further in your life and profession,” Vanden Brink said, who also taught EMT and EMS at NICC early in his career and will continue to work collaboratively with the College to address EMT training needs. “EMS skills teach you what to do in an emergency when no one else knows what to do in those situations – you can truly make a difference in this career.”
Students enrolled in an EMT course through NICC develop their skills in pre-hospital assessment and care for patients of all ages with a variety of medical conditions and traumatic injuries. Areas of study include an introduction to Emergency Medical Services, roles and responsibilities of EMTs, anatomy and physiology, medical emergencies, trauma, special considerations for working in the pre-hospital setting and providing patient transportation. Visit www.nicc.edu/emt for more information.
Students enrolled in the Paramedic program learn advanced life support skills and work with highly trained individuals in their clinical and field experiences to learn how to provide quality emergency care to critically ill and injured individuals.