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Comprehensive EMT course brings students, security officers together

Two Salve students arrive quickly to the scene, where a car has crashed head-on into a tree. The driver, still strapped in his seatbelt, isn’t responding so the students spring into action.

“Take inline stabilization of the neck and manual stabilization of the head,” commands Michael Marotta, a freshman administration of justice major who will be an RA in the fall.

“Stop,” Salve Regina Security Officer/EMT Robert Church says. “Now, tell me what needs to be done next.

“I’m going to assess for ABCs (airways, breathing, circulation) right off the bat. I’m going to assess for any life-threatening conditions that would trump the spinal at this point and would prompt rapid extrication …”

Church, a former deputy chief with the Portsmouth Fire Department who has been training EMTs for more than 15 years, is impressed. “Exactly right, well done,” he says.

Church set up this particular car accident scenario in O’Hare 123, where 13 Salve students, Safety and Security Director John Mixter and two members of the security staff are also enrolled in EMT-Basic training. Organized by the safety and security department, the four-month course has been meeting twice a week for four hours per session and all-day on some Saturdays in order to cover the material in their 1,500-page training manuals.

When the course concludes at the end of April, students who meet the standards will qualify to take the Rhode Island and national licensure test to become certified NREMT-Basics. At that point they will have attended 42 sessions, including 24 lectures and 18 labs, as well as 10 hours ride-along observation time with the Newport and Middletown fire departments -- all of this on top of their already rigorous academic schedules.

“These are a great group of students,” Church says. “Everyone’s here who wants to be. They want to learn; you can see that in every single student.” Half of Salve’s safety and security staff is already EMT-certified, and Church is being assisted by several of those officers, including Deb Tetrault, Dennis Colacone, Dan Desrosiers, Jacqueline Peterson and Nick Maltais.

“The chance to take this class and learn directly from Salve’s EMT officers who are performing these duties for our community on a daily basis is truly remarkable,” says Jivanto van Hemert, a senior and president of the Student Government Association. “In addition to a technical understanding of the skills associated with being an EMT we have all had the opportunity to develop an appreciation for these officers and their work. From scene size-up and DCAP-BTLS to traction splints and triage, my procedural knowledge continues to grow. But the relationships built by learning from and alongside these officers has been far more inspirational.”

The EMTs are first responders to medical emergencies, called upon to administer pre-hospital medical care to people injured in accidents, victims of crimes and in other medical situations.

“This collaboration between students and staff to obtain such a worthwhile goal is a great thing,” Mixter says. “When these students see half my force wearing this patch (EMT), it helps them see my office in a whole new light.”

The students are learning valuable skills in basic life support, respiratory emergencies, trauma emergencies, vehicle extrication and terrorism awareness as it pertains to EMS. There are also sections on medication administration, use of automated external defibrillators and ambulance operations.

“The knowledge you learn here, you will never forget,” Church says. “Some of the basic principles and techniques we show can easily save a life. And you will always have it, whether you’re with your family, whether you’re with friends, whether you’re backpacking, camping, out on the water … anywhere really. You can make a great difference.”