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Learning real life saving skills

As 23 people crowded around Deputy Chief Amer Kassas of the University Emergency Medical Services Association (UEMSA) Tuesday, he asked them a simple, solemn question: What should they do if an emergency victim is found dead?

UEMSA is working with the Florida Medical Training Institute (FMTI) to offer a First Responder course.

From 6-10 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday until Feb. 21, this same group will be working hands-on in simulated emergency situations. They will follow the same procedures required on emergency calls and use the same equipment found on ambulances.

After a five-month training period, only those who have passed all four written tests with a minimum score of 75 percent and a final practical exam will be granted the title of First Responder and allowed to work for any emergency response service in Florida.

Students and non-students who want to be ready for emergencies can take the course for a fee of $120. New UEMSA members pay $110.

Members of UEMSA teach the course along with instructors Lt. Susan Lieberstein and Capt. Mark Lieberstein of the FMTI on a curriculum set by the Department of Transportation.

“I love spending time with people to make sure they get the education that is appropriate for their level of training,” Lieberstein said.

The student organization UEMSA is looking to create an emergency medical service agency on campus. In the future, they’d like to become student-based responders for emergencies occurring on University grounds.

This First Responder course brings them closer to that goal.

“We’re laying the foundation for UEMSA,” said Nicholas Studer, chief of UEMSA. “We’re going to be making up the staff of this agency.”

Throughout the course, students hone emergency service skills to help prepare them for a two-year certification from the American Heart Association as First Responders.

“So many people are interested in medicine, but unless they’ve been involved with working at a hospital, they haven’t had that patient contact,” Major George Coryell, operations commander for UEMSA, said. “This gives them first exposure to see if this is something they actually like and want to pursue.”

Only one hour of class time is dedicated to lecture. The rest of the evening students will be working in replicated emergency scenarios.

With the help of UEMSA instructors acting out injuries or the use of dummies, students perform treatments including: oxygen administration, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, shock treatment, emergency childbirth delivery and splinting fractures.

“This is not different from any other training program. This is the same class that is administered to cops, firemen and people who work for the ambulance services,” Studer said.

Upon receiving First Responder certification, students can work for any emergency response service in Florida.

“They can go work for American Medical Response, TransCare, Americare, or any of those services that are currently employing first responders,” Studer said.

Additionally, students in the course may obtain National Registry certification. Students deciding to do this are required to complete a computer-based National Registry emergency medical technicians exam.

First Responders are entry-level positions held by emergency service personnel, but there is not much difference between what First Responders and EMTs do, Studer said.

“You’re on the same truck, the only difference is you’re wearing a different patch and the EMT has a couple different skills,” Studer said. “It’s good to think of this course as ‘EMT-light’ because students are getting much of that same EMT training and for a much lower cost.”

Students taking the course find that it brings them closer to their chosen career paths.

“Before I wanted to do nursing, I wanted to become a paramedic,” freshman Laura Fong-Yee, a nursing major, said. “I will be learning to deal with patients before I even become a nurse and learning how to use the medical equipment.”

Ashley Piazza, a biomedical sciences senior, said she doesn’t mind that the class is four hours long.

“We’re learning everything from how to move a patient to how to take off gloves properly,” Piazza said. “Everything else I’ve taken is all book work, here it’s all hands-on, and I love it.”

UEMSA will be offering another First Responder training course starting March 8. It’s scheduled to run Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.