Putnam County EMT Basic Students Receive Hands-on Training with Special Needs Students

‘Sometimes they can’t tell you what’s wrong,’ director says

Putnam County EMS Director Andy Jackson strives to ensure his EMT basic students receive training beyond what’s addressed in the national curriculum by providing hands-on experience.

Thursday was one of those lesson days. EMT students received training on how to handle emergencies involving people with special needs at the McNabb Fire Station. The class collaborated with special education students from Putnam County schools, and everyone involved ended up learning something new.

“We go above and beyond the curriculum,” said Mark Hameister, parametric lead instructor. “We don’t think that’s enough. We want to put competent EMTs out and to do that we have to expand the curriculum and think beyond the national level.”

Wendy Louis, an EMT and special education teacher, said she usually shows a PowerPoint presentation and tells some stories, but this year she asked Jackson about bringing her students to the EMT class.

“We did a more hands-on approach and I brought some of my students,” she said. “I’ve got current students with me, I have siblings of students with me and I have former students who came back for this.”

Jackson said the EMT students, who began training in November and will graduate in April, practiced taking assessments on the students the same as they would in the field during an emergency.

“They are going up to each one of the students, asking personal questions,” he said. “Their name, date of birth or age and if they have any medical problems.”

The EMT students also are getting vital signs by checking blood pressure, pulse, listening to their lungs and respiratory rate.

Jackson said there are many challenges for EMT students in assisting a person with special needs and vice versa, which is what makes hosting hands-on training sessions so important and impactful.

“Sometimes, they can’t tell you what’s wrong,” he said. “So, my students try to get what information they can from them and if they can’t they get it from a parent or parents there.”

Jim Rinaldi, an EMT basic student and Tonica firefighter, said the training was just as beneficial to him as he believes it was for the students because they are helping each other.

“With this, it helps me correlate how to get an answer,” he said. “ ... how to keep them entertained and in difficult situations, what’s going to work, and what won’t.”

Rinaldi said the training provided diversity by teaching him to interact with each special needs student per their needs.

“There was a student who worked at Hyvee and he’s saving money,” he said. “Now, I have another student who communicates through a talk box, so I have to learn how to communicate with my fingers.”

The training also provided parents, siblings and special needs students the opportunity to experience an emergency.

Megan Dauck, a parent, said she loved the class and was thrilled that her son, Hayden, was learning what would happen in an emergency.

“I love it,” she said. “He still doesn’t know when something is wrong that he needs to call 911. I just think it’s great. I truly do and he’s going to learn a lot from it.”

Bob Lund said his family spoke to his stepson Matthew Schennum before letting him know what to expect and what he would be doing.

“Fire, EMS, police are all there to help. But, with special needs kids that bears repeating,” Lund said. “I think being in a class like this gives them a little more comfort and lets them know who these people are.”

Source: Putnam County Record