When Polk County Fire Rescue (PCFR) approached Polk State about its need for paramedics, the College’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Program didn’t hesitate to figure out a way to put students on a fast track to becoming the highly-skilled professionals the community needs.
Polk State EMS, in partnership with PCFR, launched a three-semester program in September for a class of 22 men and women who will receive the quality education and training they need for successful employment with the department.
“The College understands the dire staffing needs the department is facing and is committed to doing everything possible to make this accelerated program successful for Polk County Fire Rescue,” EMS Program Director Don Guillette said. “Polk State is dedicated to providing the education and training needed to fulfill Polk County’s workforce needs, and the College’s EMS Program is no exception. We want to ensure paramedics serving the residents of our community are highly-skilled, knowledgeable professionals.”
“Polk State is dedicated to providing the education and training needed to fulfill Polk County’s workforce needs, and the College’s EMS Program is no exception. We want to ensure paramedics serving the residents of our community are highly-skilled, knowledgeable professionals.”
— EMS Program Director Don Guillette
Students in the program receive their education at no cost to them thanks to a scholarship provided by PCFR, which is also giving each student a $1,600 a month stipend to participate. In return, the students have signed a five-year continuous employment agreement with the department. PCFR’s investment in the program totals nearly $450,000, illustrating not only how critical the need is for certified paramedics, but also PCFR’s trust that Polk State’s EMS Program will produce the highest level of skilled professionals the department needs to successfully serve Polk County.
Employment of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics is projected to grow 15 percent over the next eight years, which is much faster than the national average for all other occupations, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“There is both a state and national shortage of paramedics in the field, and we are feeling it here. This scholarship opportunity is our answer to the shortage,” Polk County Fire Rescue Chief Tony Stravino said. “We are looking forward to seeing what this inaugural class is capable of. Once they graduate and we can get them situated into our rescue units, we will be better facilitated to serve the ever-growing needs of Polk County.”
Guillette and his team worked meticulously to condense the standard 12-month paramedic program into eight and a half months without sacrificing quality and expectations. The College hired an additional full-time clinical coordinator, two adjunct hospital clinical instructors, and an EMS lab instructor to make the program possible.
Because Polk State is accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Education Programs for the Emergency Medical Services Professions (CoAEMSP), the accelerated program will not alter curriculum or instructional time, but students will complete the courses and materials in a shorter period. A paramedic’s training requires more than 1,000 curriculum hours per national standards as well as internship and field training.
Students in the accelerated program will also participate in 500 hours of ambulance ride time, 144 hours of hospital rotations, and 15 live intubations in Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center’s Operating Room Department.
The men and women currently participating will complete the program in June 2019.