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College program prepares students in case of emergency

College of the Canyons educator has helped pioneer, develop practices to teach how to be an EMT

Posted: October 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Fire Technology EMT Program Director Patti Haley, left, hands out test papers to the class of EMT students at College of the Canyons in Valencia recently. (Dan Watson/The Signal)

When it comes to studying how to save lives, there’s no pie-in-the-sky theorizing in College of the Canyons’ emergency medical technician curriculum, its developer says. Drawing on more than 25 years of in-the-field experience, program supervisor Patti Haley has shaped course sequences around real-life situations to build real-life knowledge, she says.

“If you’re an 18-year-old student and someone calls 911, and you get there before the Fire Department, and someone hands you their 10-day-old baby, you better know what you’re doing,” said Haley, who’s also the chairwoman of the COC health science department.

Students in her EMT course helped pioneer and develop practices that have been implemented around the state, she said.

American Medical Response, an ambulance company that has six locations in the Santa Clarita Valley, counts “dozens and dozens” of former COC students among its ranks, said Dave Ellis, operations supervisor for the service in the Santa Clarita Valley.

After working with Haley and her students for years, Ellis said he enjoys quizzing the aspiring EMTs during their required eight-hour ride-along.

“(Haley) stresses that scene safety is critical, which we obviously do, too, and she makes sure (students) are prepared,” he said.

It’s not easy for students with nothing but classroom experience to learn the focus necessary to listen for lung sounds from a struggling patient in the back of a moving ambulance, Ellis said.

“We try to use real-life examples and situations in the classroom as much as possible,” Haley said, mentioning a recent North Hollywood crash during which a good Samaritan was electrocuted trying to save someone from car-crash wreckage.

“The book can preach it,” Haley said. “But it’s a completely different thing once you get out onto the scene.”

Haley knows from experience. In addition to more than 20 years of experience as an emergency room nurse, she’s also been in charge of sending instructions to EMTs as they work on emergencies and she audits emergency room procedure for Los Angeles County.

It helps her bring the most current methods available to the program’s students, she said.

COC students take invaluable lessons from emergency scenes back to the course for the next group of students. “Every class has gotten stronger and stronger as a result,” Ellis said.

The students who graduate from the eight-unit course at COC may take a national registry test and become eligible for an emergency medical technician position after completing an application process with Los Angeles County. Another option for students who complete the requirements is an emergency room technician job.

Advancement in the emergency medical field is also an option, Haley said; EMT is one of the first levels.

A new course for the program this year is a less intensive version of the EMT course offered during two four-hour blocks of class twice a week.

The three-unit emergency medical response class is a level of certification recognized nationally but not yet in California. It’s the first career step before an EMT, and doesn’t require quite as much investment in equipment and time, Haley said.



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