• Angela Mouly

EST On-Site Practicum


Damaged vehicles and injured dummies set up for the EST haunted house. Photo Angela Mouly

The Lakeland College Emergency Training Centre (ETC) held an on-site practicum for Emergency Services Technology (EST) students on October 26.

Many of the students have spent the past eight months at the school and will go on to do a one-month ambulance practicum after their celebration of learning on November 10.

ETC Dean, Shawn McKerry said this course is the most prestigious for an entry-level firefighter and offers two streams; fire and medical.

“The most advantageous piece of the medical stream is it opens a lot more doors for employment in Alberta. A lot of fire departments in the province are integrated fire and Emergency Medical Services.

McKerry graduated in 2006 from the program and has been back since July after roles as chief, etc., in larger centres.

“I’m quite excited to be here and see what we can do with the school,” said McKerry.

“We recently had the opportunity to buy two new ambulances to support the program. They are used but a big upgrade from the original units as the current one was 31 years old with a lift hatch on the back. One of the new ones is on-site, and we are trying to source the other one.”

With only one and a half weeks left in the course, students Braden Gatschene (from Edmonton) and Dakota Dawson (from Thompson, Manitoba) said Lakeland College appealed to them because of the facilities and infrastructure on the field including an ocean range, fire tower, smoke tower, etc.

“We did our best to simulate with the use of two ambulances that were staffed, stocked, and running, and performed scenarios around the field working with other classmates as patients,” said Dawson.

Mock scenes for the day included a 26-year-old woman who had been beaten by her husband with a crowbar, and a man in his mid-20s who lost a fight and had a large gash and did not want to go to the hospital.

Students said the woman acted paranoid and scared with multiple injuries and they had to reassure her, while with the man they had to talk to him and help him understand that it really wasn’t up to him.

The other scenario involved a mock plane crash where they assisted members from Rocky View County doing their Fire Officer 800 practical skills and evaluation. This mock scenario had 16 patients so they radioed to assist with the extrication.

“We had practised multiple casualties but never to that scale. The most interesting part was learning how to communicate and working with people who are in the industry,” said Gatschene.

“That one was different because we had command through the Incident Command System (ICS). Rather than having our instructors relay information, I got thrown into EMS supervisor role; we’ve never really done that before,” said Dakota.

They also learned that when stocking the ambulance, you can’t leave saline overnight or it will be frozen. They pointed out that everything expires; gauze, tubing, and fluid. Dakota said that paramedics aren’t allowed to drive the ambulance as fast as they want, and Gatschene said they have to learn basic mechanical upkeep by doing checks and stocking at the start of every shift.

“The human body is very interesting. General health and wellness is very important; taking care of yourself properly including eating healthy, proper sleep, communication, and mental health,” said Dawson.

Already having complete their hospital practicum at the Vermilion Health Centre, they said they really enjoyed working with actual patients by starting IVs, etc., because typically when they worked on their classmates the sense of urgency was lost.

“Becoming a paramedic is one of several ways to give back to the community,” said Gatschene. “Every day is different; you think on your feet and it is never boring. This is a profession you do not fall into; you have to want it.”

“Job security is another reason to be involved; there will always be a need for it. I don’t think that everyone can do it. It takes a special person, a certain maturity and mental fortitude to deal with what paramedics see during pre-hospital care,” said Dawson.

McKerry said the students will be competing with 100 other applicants for five positions in the industry as it is very competitive. Both Dawnson and Gatschene are completing the medical stream but took extra courses so they will have fire certification as well.

Both streams of students worked together to create a haunted house for community members to enjoy from October 25-27. Having been a tradition in the past, they wanted to give back and hope it continues to grow the bond between ETC students and the community.

“In years past one of the classes became involved by supporting a playground which began the whole process of getting students engaged in the community,” said McKerry. “Knowing this class is set up for more success going out into the industry, we hope they will go out being community-minded. It is not far off what the industry expects as well. A fire station is a critical piece of infrastructure in a community. If one is flourishing, the other one is as well.”

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