Individuals wishing to train in emergency medical services may soon be able to avoid a 45-mile commute to Walters State or Roane State community colleges and instead drive to the Alcoa City Center.
A new training center for Emergency Medical Services personnel is being planned in the same building as Rural/Metro Ambulance Service on Bessemer Street. Roane State will be the tenant and will partner with Rural/Metro along with Blount Memorial Hospital to provide the classes.
A Roane State school official said they hope to have the facility renovated and classes in session in the fall, although they still have some funding issues to resolve.
Rob Webb, regional director of Rural/Metro, said this academy has been a goal of his for 15 years. The school would offer a paramedic curriculum to students.
“With what we’ve seen, there is a tremendous need for more paramedics throughout the region,” he said.
Webb said that when he was president of the Tennessee Ambulance Service Association, he traveled all over the state and found the need existed everywhere. “Community colleges simply can not produce the numbers needed,” he said. “Right now the demand is not as high as I’ve seen in past year, but it fluctuates over the years.”
Webb said ambulances are staffed well at Rural/Metro compared to a year ago. “That need will come back probably in the summer as younger employees go to the military, some employees go to helicopters and hospitals start hiring paramedics,” he said.
Webb said the field paramedics have a job that is more geared toward a younger person because of the strain the job puts on a paramedic’s back. “As paramedics get older, most look for a job in a hospital or management or on a helicopter where they’re not repeatedly having to lift all day. That puts a void in field paramedics. There’s a need for them in hospitals, helicopters and certainly there’s a need for them in field,” he said.
Webb said more doctor’s office are hiring paramedics because there’s a shortage of registered nurses. “Most of time they can get them cheaper than RNs. It’s an easy way to fill the void,” he said. “With all that said, we wanted to look at ways to produce more paramedics in the region, keep training at home and control some of the training.”
Webb said often when paramedics come out of different programs, Rural/Metro spends a tremendous amount of money training paramedics to do things specific to Rural/Metro. “With this program, we feel we’ll have them coming out ready to work literally on Day One. That’s goal with the local program here,” he said. “It would serve the EMS industry and the emergency department at Blount Memorial Hospital. We look at this being a community effort and not just a Rural/Metro effort.”
Webb said Rural/Metro was fortunate the Alcoa City Center board chose to build the Rural/Metro Ambulance Service building with no guarantee it would be filled. “We leased it and committed to a certain amount of space, and they built additional space in an effort to attract someone to do this,” he said.
Webb said Rural/Metro will commit to sending students through the programs. Rural/Metro employees from Loudon, Knox, Blount and surrounding counties will attend classes at the school.
Webb said the program is two semesters long plus a summer. The goal would be to have 20 students in class each year. “Additionally we’ve asked Roane State to look at the potential of doing EMT classes. There would be programs during the day and potentially in the evening. Fire departments use EMTs, as do industry such as companies like Alcoa or Denso,” he said. “You have to be an EMT to become a paramedic.”
Webb said EMT programs teach all the basics of pre-hospital emergency medicine such as extrication, splinting, delivering a baby and starting intravenous fluids. The paramedic program is more detailed about interpreting what is going on with a patient. “They’re taught how to read an EKG, heart rhythm and how to intervene with medication. One major thing is to intebate a patient and control the airway. It’s much more advanced training.”
Webb said Rural/Metro is waiting on Roane State’s final decision in evaluating this opportunity, and they’re trying to find funding sources. Rural/Metro pays 100 percent of the cost of classes for employees.
“We might as well pay it to an institution that has a program upstairs on an elevator versus driving across the state somewhere,” he said.
Kirk Harris, director of continuing education for health sciences program at Roane State, said the college is working to find the grant money to renovate the building and get the classes started.
“As far as the partnership goes, we have worked with Rural/Metro many, many years and have a good relationship. Basically, the idea has been kicked around about developing a regional training center,” he said. “ It seems like there are lots of great ideas and opportunities to do it. I think that we can create something we’ve been doing yearly but try to create it in an academy style program, which would really enhance the training and have one key center designed for EMS. That is where we’re headed.”
Harris said it would be convenient to have Rural/Metro operating a floor below the school.
“That’s pretty exciting when you think about what we would have available to us from the training aspect. Certainly in our training over here we can say, “Send us an ambulance over,” but there, literally, we would walk downstairs. It would be a tremendous opportunity,” he said.
Harris said the college would like to be ready to go in the fall. “I’m a realist. The State of Tennessee has taken a $1 billion cut in lost revenue. It’s a hard time. We’ve got to come up with about $350,000 to $500,000. If this were two years or three years ago, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Now it was going to take longer, and we’re going to have to be much more creative in how we get funding.”
Harris said the good news is because of the hard economic times there will be new money from federal agencies available. “That is what we’ll go after.”
George Williams manages the Alcoa City Center said the partnership between Rural/Metro, Blount Memorial Hospital and Roane State makes sense. “We’re pulling together a regional training center, the only one of its kind in the state, to train EMT and paramedics.
“It’s going to be a partnership with Blount Memorial Hospital, Pellissippi and even LMU. “Why buy more equipment when they’ve got it. It’s going to be a scheduling challenge, but we can do it,” he said.
Williams said he was proud that the “only center of this type in the State of Tennessee will be on this site in the City of Alcoa in a neighborhood that is important to the city’s history and in a facility that has meant so much. This facility is continuing to bless many lives. It’s extremely exciting,” Williams said. “The idea is we’re on the cutting edge once again.”
In the next three weeks, Blount Today will look at the many different lives of the Alcoa City Center where this new facility will be housed.