Expanded EMT program a lifesaver at Kenai Peninsula College

Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The college is offering emergency medical technician courses in the spring. It has just been announced that an EMT III class has been added to the already scheduled emergency trauma technician (ETT), EMT I and EMT II classes.

These course offerings are a result of the needs expressed by Central Emergency Services in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. According to CES, there is a shortage of EMTs and paramedics in Alaska and the college has responded by making these classes available to encourage area students to take up the call.

Plans also are also under way to bring the University of Alaska Anchorage paramedic associate's degree program to the college. Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner has identified Paul Perry as the person to take on the task of laying the groundwork and hopefully will be able to offer the program in August. Perry is an adjunct instructor teaching all EMT courses at KPC.

According to Perry, he began teaching first aid and CPR classes in 1985 and expanded to EMT classes in 1992. In 1998, he began teaching advanced level EMS classes, initially in rural Alaska then for the local fire departments and then though Central Peninsula General Hospital. Perry started at KPC in spring 2004.

He is originally from Provo, Utah, where he graduated from high school, moved with his family to Alaska in 1984 and experienced the Alaska homestead lifestyle on 10 acres in Kasilof. He continued his education at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, for a year, where he became a nationally registered EMT at the basic level in 1985. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., at the Eisenhower Army Medical Center. He was exposed to a rotation in the primary care clinic, later working in the emergency department, where his interest in emergency medicine jelled. It was at that point he knew he wanted to become a paramedic.

After his tour with the military, he worked as an EMT on the streets of Augusta, Ga. He finished paramedic training in 1988 and received his national registry in 1990.

Since then, Perry has worked as a paramedic during the Exxon Valdez oil spill and then for a year on the trans-Alaska pipeline as a medic. In 1992, Perry began work full-time for the Nikiski Fire Department under now-retired Fire Chief Bill Harris. At the department, Perry has been promoted to engineer-paramedic and is a member of the department dive rescue team. He continues to teach EMT and EMS classes within the department.

The EMT programs at KPC are rapidly growing. The second EMT-basic class is finishing up and next semester the emergency trauma technician course will be offered as a night class. EMT-basic and intermediate classes (EMT II and EMT III) also will be offered.

Perry said he is excited about the proposition of a full paramedic associate degree program. He envisions students completing the didactic material locally, then going to Allentown, Pa., for an intensive ride-along program that includes ambulance duty and helicopter flight time. There also will be in-hospital clinical hours that will be done in and out of state. By the time students are finished with the program, they will put almost 2,000 hours into their paramedic licenses.

Perry pointed out that the state of Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services, Southern Region EMS Council in Anchorage, as well as the communities of Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski, have been supportive of the proposed program.

Dr. William Cooper has accepted the roll as the program medical director, with Central Emergency Services and Nikiski Fire Department, offering guidance and support.

The process requires that a full medical review board be in place to oversee the program. Planned members include Cooper from CES and KPC; Dr. David Wartinbee, KPC's biology professor, will chair the program; Turner; Dr. Mickelson from Central Peninsula General Hospital's emergency department; Dr. Chen-ault, local trauma surgeon from Soldotna; the CES fire chief; Patty Tucker, R.N. from the intensive care unit at CPGH; Ed French, paramedic and training officer at CES; and Perry.

"Right now there is a real need for qualified paramedics on the Kenai Peninsula," Perry said. "KPC is hoping to offer our local fire departments quality, trained paramedics. One of our primary goals for this program is to recruit students locally and, upon completion, retain them here. We have seen a significant number of qualified medics come to the peninsula, and then leave after only a short time, taking thousands of dollars in EMS and fire training with them. We're hoping that if they lived here first, then they'll want to stay here after they become paramedics."

This column is provided by Suzie Kendrick, community relations coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College.

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