Saved by the Bell? High School Student EMS

Ahhh, High School. The classes, the lockers, the bells, the peer pressure, the parties, the immaturity, the congestive heart failure, the overdoses, the emergent response, the…

Wait, what?

I’ve been hearing a lot recently about Emergency Medical Technician training being held in High Schools (9th – 12th grades) with teenage high school students being trained to be EMTs. At first blush, it actually seems like an innovative way for communities to meet the EMS staffing shortage problem head-on. In addition, it would seem to be a great way to get young people interested in EMS. In fact, THIS ARTICLE posted recently by Zoll EMS&Fire on their Facebook page seemed like a good idea to me at first. A county partnered with a technical high school in order to train new EMTs to swell the rosters of their county’s services. It’s gotta be a good idea? Right?

Then how about this service in Darien, CT. that is ENTIRELY STAFFED BY TEENAGERS AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS? (Dept. Web Site)

Or this service, in Hoboken, NJ that has a student emergency response team that “respond(s) with the school nurse to non-emergency calls”? (additional article)

I have been hearing about such things for a while now and even spoke about it with Tiger Schmittendorf on the March edition of the Firefighter Netcast, however I didn’t give it very much thought until I read the “Last Word” section of JEMS Magazine in what I believe was the March 2010 issue (although I can’t find it anywhere on their web site www.jems.com). It talked about our friends in Darien Connecticut that run Post 53 EMS, a service that is staffed and ran almost entirely by high school students. I was a bit peeved after I read that. Then yesterday when I read the article about the service in Sussex County, I got just plain mad. I don’t agree with this at all. In fact, even though I might have been for it without thinking it through, now I am coming out completely against it.

There, I’ve said it. I am against beginning Emergency Medical Technician training in high school and I am most certainly against persons under the age of 18 staffing ambulances. I also must strongly condemn persons under the age of eighteen responding to emergencies, operating emergency vehicles, or taking responsibility for professional level patient care.

Look at the words there and understand just how much I condemn the actions of the politicians and officials that permit this. You are endangering the public, harming the profession of EMS, and creating a systemic negative impact on patient care throughout the system. You run the chance of increasing patient morbidity and mortality, run the risk of getting teenagers injured and/or killed on an emergency scene, and are exposing youth to situations that they cannot possibly be experienced enough to understand.

I am fully aware that the above paragraph is inflammatory and I am aware that the proponents of these situations are not going to like what I have said, but that doesn’t make it less true. Look for a minute beyond the arguments that you are going to make about the kids themselves, who I am sure are all upstanding young citizens who are surely beyond reproach. Look for a minute even beyond the fact that evaluation of the kids themselves must be taken on “a case by case basis” as I’ve heard before when this issue is argued. T o be certain, there are kids that are capable of functioning to the EMT-Basic level with proper, adult, professional supervision… However, I want to know why there is a perceived need?

The communities that support and offer these plans where students are trained to the EMT level and especially those communities where persons under the age of 18 are active emergency responders generally purport to be offering these plans in order to combat a “shortage” of trained emergency responders. This is where my biggest grievance lies. This “shortage” of which they speak is manufactured. It’s false, and it’s created by the very attitude that causes the local political powers to think that a program that provides a consistent stream of young, inexperienced, naive EMTs who are willing to work just for the “excitement”, “honor”, and “cool factor” that these programs seem to offer is a good idea. Here’s the thing, these communities don’t have a shortage of adult, professional EMTs who are willing to do the job. They have a shortage of adult, professional EMTs who are willing to work for peanuts in a system that has no respect for what they do.

Get it? If you have such little respect for EMS and the EMTs that provide it that you are comfortable letting teenage kids work your trucks, you obviously have such little respect for EMS that you provide horrible pay and working conditions to the point where no self-respecting adult can make a living on the wages and conditions you offer them. There’s no shortage of EMTs willing to provide excellent EMS. There’s a shortage of pay and professional respect that causes them not to be able to survive working the available jobs. Trust me, if these communities paid better and provided better jobs there would be no shortage of EMTs. It’s manufactured by their willingness to just have someone with a pulse and an EMT card on their trucks. It’s manufactured by their thought process that EMS is simply childs’ play and that since “any idiot can do it” they might as well put kids on the trucks. The EMT shortage has always been created by lack of pay, poor working conditions, and an unwillingness of local politicians to provide adequate amounts of these things. Creating high-school EMT programs reinforce this by always providing a stream of fresh meat willing to work for nothing. Young people don’t worry about such things as pay high enough to support a family, nor do they care so much about things like insurance, benefits, or retirement plans. They just want to get out there and go to work. 

I make the argument that putting inexperienced high-schoolers on ambulances increases morbidity and mortality using my experience as an experienced long time paramedic. I offer the full body of research that proves that experienced healthcare providers provide better healthcare than do inexperienced ones. The fact that there’s such little research out there does not diminish the fact that you have no such research that shows safety in what you do. I say that your communities would be better served by adult, professional, well compensated providers. I say that they would save more lives and reduce more suffering than do your high-school kids. It is well known that patients have better outcomes when they trust their healthcare provider and you ask your patients to put their trust in high school students. There are many possible scenarios out there where the patient’s very life and/or death rest upon the skilled interventions provided by an EMT. In these situations, even experienced providers make mistakes. You’re telling me that the incidence of these mistakes will not be unacceptably higher using teenagers?

When your Wife, Son, Husband, Daughter, or friend is lying there, dying on the floor, the roadway, or on the cot, will you feel comfortable with your decision to put a high school student at their side to be in charge of their continued comfortable survival? I make the charge that you will not. Your community members do not need a child coming to them in their hour of highest need. They need a professional, adult provider and your system denies them this.

I support EMS education in high schools. I support explorer programs that give firsthand experience and education to teenagers and younger students. I support CPR and First Aid Training at any age. I will support students coming to the EMS station, cleaning the trucks, taking classes with the crews, learning about EMS, and even staffing first-aid stations and special events under the watchful eye of an experienced adult provider. I do not support students responding in ambulances for the reasons I’ve stated above… but in closing I also offer this:

In one of the articles above, someone stated that these programs prepare students for a career in the emergency medical services. They might. However, by their very existence they prepare students for a career in a low-wage, low respect industry that might as well be provided by teenagers. These programs are a slap in the face to our profession. We will never advance when mindsets like these are allowed to propagate and flourish

Your thoughts?

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  • http://sixlettervariable.blogspot.com/ Christopher

    I guess being young (26) and new (3.5 years of EMS) myself, I'm not as taken by this news. I support these students getting into EMS as early as is feasible. Yet 14 does seem pretty young, and really anything under 18 seems quite odd. I did not think you could be an EMT if you were not 18. The fact the responders may be minors brings up very interesting legal implications. Moreover, persons under 21 have a lot of growing up to do and the best place for this is not the back of an ambulance attending to a patient.

    If these students were to shadow a doctor, they surely would not be allowed any more patient contact than acquiring blood pressures or taking a patient history. Probably less if they are under 18.

    I think a program like this would be beneficial if the ambulance was already staffed with two BLS/ILS/ALS providers who are 21 or older. That way the responsibility for the patient is squarely in the hands of someone who is old enough to respect exactly what that entails.

    I will disagree with you that it in some way lessens our profession. Those kids are held to the same standards you and I are, volunteer or paid, young or old. We've been given no reason to think they've been doing anything less than the standard of care required of them. I think the problem is that the expectations and responsibilities in EMS are far too much for the shoulders of a 14-18 year old.

    End of our profession? No. Problem that needs to be addressed? Yes.

  • http://firecritic.com Fire Critic

    High School EMT-B's…I am all for it. I see no harm in it and I hope that these kids get bitten early and want to do it for a long time.

    High School EMT-P's…maybe not so much. However, the system around where I live does not really allow for it either. Paramedic is achieved through college level schooling. So it isn't an issue.

    If kids aren't given EMS as an opportunity early on they will have moved on to something else and may never get to fully understand what a career in EMS is like.

    Sure there are things that high schoolers don't need to see which they might see as an EMT. However, I think it offers a way of them growing up. Hell, at 18 we through them overseas in the war. At 18 they can do most anything. I don't see a big difference in starting out a little earlier as an EMT with proper management, leadership, and protocols.

    • Austinpace

      I completely agree, I am a sophmore in high school and at 15 achieved my national registry first responder and regularly run calls under supervision of EMT-Bs, EMT-Is, and EMT-Ps as an explorer, but in addition to that we recieve extra training and such as basic water rescue, landing zone set up, and IV set up to name a few.

      However my county is fortunate enough to have a great EMS service and professionals so explorers do not need to respond to calls from school. My point is though I have seen and had to deal with things on calls that some EMT students several years older than me have never encountered until they start working professionally.

  • http://twitter.com/shell1972 Shelly Wilcoxson

    I agree with you completely about staffin and respondin etc. However I have seen Hgh School based EMT programs work well. That said it was with the following conditions, the student was grades 11 and 12. It was a 2 year course and u wasn't not an EMT when u left. You just had the trainin to go take your testin for your EMT-B. So though I'm not totally against High School programs. I fully 10000 percent agree with the rest you say here

  • emschick

    I'm a product of a high school EMT class. It was only offered to 11th and 12th graders and you had to be 16 on the first day of class. We had a “rescue squad” in our high school that would respond to emergencies while 911 was called and the local rescue squad would come to take over care and transport the patient. When I was in high school they even saved a life with early intervention. We could volunteer at our local rescue squads but at mine I wasn't even allowed at the station by myself let alone run a call without an adult. I support the program with proper supervision and training.

  • http://twitter.com/ssgjbroyles John Broyles

    If there comes a time where an EMT-B class is offered at the high school my daughter goes to, and she met the age requirements PLUS had the desire to take it, I honestly would let her. I would on one condition, though. I'd try to work it out with the local ALS service so she could actually see the codes, the GSWs, the NH transfers, the nuts and bolts of what we do. I'd do that to show her that it's actually not the “cool factor” that would be made out to be by other kids.

    I write fiction on occasion. In the stuff I write (not on my blog) the daughter of the main character is a licensed FR. No big deal…here's where the FICTION comes in…the daughter is TWELVE. That's right, 12. A pre-teen, working at the full scope of local protocol for first responders. The daughter can immobilize, oxygenate (if she has a cylinder available), take vitals, then turn care over to her father, the FF/Paramedic when he rolls up on scene.

    The high school I occasionally drive for has some real responsible, mature kids, as do most high schools. It also has its fair share of dirtbags.

    Would I want a response to my family with a bunch of irresponsible dirtbags, even if they knew exactly what to do and when to do it? Hardly. The same as I would want a rescue squad of 12-year olds.

    EMT-B programs in high schools do have their merit. I agree with the qualifications for the class be 16 years old, 11th or 12th grade. That's about all. Those classes would let those kids BE READY TO TAKE THEIR NREMT-B EXAM OR STATE EXAM upon graduation from HIGH SCHOOL, not the class. One to 2 hours a day, 5 days a week repeated every semester for a total of 4 semesters would work…as long as they graduate. If actual in the bus time is offered, they would definitely have to be SUPERVISED by a medic.

    Like was said before, with proper MANAGEMENT, SUPERVISION, & PROTOCOL, it would work.

  • http://thehappymedic.com the Happy Medic

    Powerful article Chris.
    I am the product of an Explorer program and it was the mentorship of the hose Captains and experienced care givers that allowed me to deal with seeing my first dead body and full arrest, in the opposite order.
    EMT should be a high school class for sure, as should wood and metal shop, basic economics, ethics and how to wear your pants on your waistband, but now I'm close to shouting get off my lawn.
    Staffing an EMS resource with 1 or 2 inexperienced providers, regardless of age, is a foolish mistake.
    I agree with you 100% that the perceived “need” for responders is a direct result of poor pay and benefits package, but under the for profit model, that is not likely to change anytime soon. Municipal systems are also feeling the crunch and staffing an ambulance with a couple of teenagers seems like a neat way to kill 2 birds, giving “experience” and having the lights flash and the siren wail instead of sitting still, unfortunately, as you so eloquently put, the killing will not be done to birds.

    Thanks for a great article.
    Justin

  • http://davidkonig.com Dave Konig

    It's an interesting perspective you've taken with this.

    As a long time member of the Scouts, I am very familiar with the Explorer programs that they offer and both the benefits and controversies that surround them. During my time as an Assistant District Commissioner for the BSA, I had the unique experience of seeing Explorer Posts both flourish and fail horribly. The common element I always found was both the commitment and passion of the adults who provided the overall leadership, or lack thereof.

    I think what it really boils down to though is EMS itself. If we are not prepared to instill caring and passion by inducting those at the legal age of 18 into our certified ranks, then at what age do we do that? Granted I don't think 14 or 21 is necessarily a definitive answer… because I think everyone is different in both emotional maturity and physical capabilities (sort of like patients themselves)… but I don't have a problem with providing the option to either age group.

  • http://davidkonig.com Dave Konig

    It's an interesting perspective you've taken with this.

    As a long time member of the Scouts, I am very familiar with the Explorer programs that they offer and both the benefits and controversies that surround them. During my time as an Assistant District Commissioner for the BSA, I had the unique experience of seeing Explorer Posts both flourish and fail horribly. The common element I always found was both the commitment and passion of the adults who provided the overall leadership, or lack thereof.

    I think what it really boils down to though is EMS itself. If we are not prepared to instill caring and passion by inducting those at the legal age of 18 into our certified ranks, then at what age do we do that? Granted I don't think 14 or 21 is necessarily a definitive answer… because I think everyone is different in both emotional maturity and physical capabilities (sort of like patients themselves)… but I don't have a problem with providing the option to either age group.

  • PheenyxFyre

    While there are 2 sides of every argument, I agree with many of the points made here. I will offer this; in my daughters school, there is not even a school nurse there all the time. The 'school nurse' is only there 2-3 days a week and not even all day. In this case, a student that is PROPERLY QUALIFIED can fill in the gap left by a part-time 'school nurse.' I would love to see properly trained EMT-B's full time at schools. To no further burden already stretched school budgets, this could be accomplished by the students. Middle school? Hell no! High School? Maybe, I have seen some VERY immature high school seniors and some very mature freshmen. I think this plays a role in who should and should not fill this valuable position. This will give them some of the experience they will need in the real world as a paid, adult, EMT. This is the way to provide future EMTs in the community, NOT by putting these kids in roles to that only adults should fill. A perfect example of this is my EMT-B class i am currently in, there is an obvious difference in behavior and attitude between the adults and the kids fresh out of high school. Go to any EMT-B class and you will see this. While the training is the same, the application of the training DOES vary with age/experience. Use the Jr. Fire Fighter Model inplace at many small town/rural volunteer fire depts. They are all volunteers but who do we really put in the line of danger? The adults or the kids? They get the education and experience they need for when they are older and better suited to handle it.

  • PGSIlva

    Let me throw a little food for thought out there:
    Let's say I'm 18, just out of high school and I “take the test” and land a coveted slot in an academy in Anytown USA. Lets say that the academy puts me through EMT, I get my license, graduate and am put on a BLS “bus”. I've never worked EMS, never dealt with patients and my last job was working at the local mall where I met and started dating the mayors daughter (that's why I was hired so easy). Now I'm working my 2, 2 and 4, running lights and sirens and “living the dream”; a professional EMS provider! How do we feel about this scenario? Because it's not that far from the truth in many a town.

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  • LuckyDoc

    I like to encourage anyone who wants to come into this field, but I just can't shake the feeling that it's not fair to ask teenage kids to start accumulating the baggage this job saddles everyone with at such a young age.

  • http://www.rowan.edu/safety/ems Chris Seaman

    I am the product of an explorer program and it has given me the experience to obtain a great EMS job out of high school and has since assisted me in getting through college. I feel you are generalizing a group of people based on age alone. I feel that a span of two years in a young persons life does not accurately indicate varying levels of maturity. It remains something that must be watched closely and ensure those riding ambulances are of the utmost levels of maturity. In addition I find these programs to be excellent for deterring drug use and other dangerous behavior in adolescents. In reading this it has become evident you haven't worked closely with a successful explorer program and truly seen the positive effects they have on the youth in the community.

  • Jay

    I am an EMT currently living in the state of New Hampshire. I started out as an EMT at the age of 16 in the state of Connecticut. If you are between the ages of 16-18 you can take the EMT course and become certified after completion with parental/guardian consent. I am familiar with Darien's system first off all the high school EMT's respond with an adult advisor to calls who is the “Crew Chief”. They can not drive the ambulance they can tech BLS calls if ALS is required there is a Medic Intercept in place with a nearby hospital. They are trained to the EMT or MRT level. If they are an EMT they have to pass the same National Registry Curriculum that we must all pass they are not given any special consideration for their age. Darien's system is a great system, and it works. They have been very successful with it for many years. Do I believe a lot of kids at that age are irresponsible for this line of work. YES!!! but the ones like myself who started out at sixteen should be allowed to volunteer with their local ambulance service if they pass the program, and show maturity to handle the position.

  • Rog

    It's only anecdotal, but I was on a call once where we had a teenage trainee. Fire was on scene and told us the patient was dead. Our trainee went directly to the patient, listened, and told us the patient was breathing.

  • http://www.lifeunderthelights.com Ckemtp

    I figured that there were flames coming when I hit the “Publish Post” button this morning. I am accustomed to people disagreeing with me and I'm not above trumpeting a controversial position in order to get a good discussion going. Since I published this I've been getting great comments on the blog post itself and also here as well but the general points being made on the comments have left me scratching my head. Perhaps I was too severe, but my real miscalculation was that I didn't get my biggest point across well enough.

    First off though, some background. I am an Eagle Scout and have served as a BSA staff member on the local, regional, and national levels. I've served as a medical staff member for two National Jamborees and was an explorer as well during my high-school years. I've been involved with the program since I was a Tiger Cub and I admire and support the program completely.

    My beef is not, as has been stated above, with the early exposure to EMS. I stated that it was a good thing for high school students to get experience and education early on. I like drawing new, young providers into the field and I very much like the public education aspect as our profession needs to get out there and educate the public. I agree with these programs right up to the point where persons under the age of 18 are allowed to provide healthcare for patients who did not consent to it on an ambulance. If I am a citizen who calls 911, I am able to expect a certain level of professional competence from my providers and I would take offense to a 16yo showing up and performing interventions that they are not legally responsible for. Common law dictates that the “age of consent” is eighteen years of age. No minor may be held legally responsible for their actions before that. While I'm not stating that the lack of legal recourse is my motivation for this, the fact that there is no remedy for improper care is a large one. In addition, a minor cannot consent for the risks to their safety they will be exposed to and their parents are most probably not properly educated.

    The other thing is, and this is my biggest point. What kind of jobs are we preparing them for when they get out of high school? EMS pay is pulled back horribly by the fact that employers rely on a constant supply of “Fresh Meat” willing to work for peanuts and no real benefits. Older providers generally leave the profession once they find that they can not support a family on an EMS only wage. These programs address a “shortage” that exists because programs like theirs exist and when they get to the point where they must make the decision to leave the profession to provide a better life for their family I believe they will see things like I do. EMS is a profession that must be provided by experienced professionals. To put teenagers in control is a slap in the face to people who are trying to advance the profession as I am. I make my living off of my skills as a paramedic. I also support my community by volunteering those same skills. I think that my patients deserve a caregiver with my level of experience and knowledge and I have worked hard to give them just that. To think that I could and should be replaced by a teenager? What a slap in the face.

    Explorer programs are great, just don't degrade my profession and endanger the lives of my patients with them.

    (also posted as a comment on the JEMS Facebook Fan Page)

  • Ambulance_Driver

    My $0.014 (adjusted for inflation):

    I got my first save at age 15, using the CPR I learned by playing hooky in junior high school and tagging along with my mother to her nursing courses.

    I started the EMS Explorer post at a former employer.

    I also taught a couple of high school EMT-B courses. All participants had to be a senior, maintain a 3.5 GPA, and obtain permission from the principal their parents and the health ed teacher who contracted me to do the courses.

    The first course taught me that even honor students struggle with the volume and depth of information imparted in an EMT course (at least, in my EMT courses). Primary and secondary education just ain't what they used to be. Neither are the majority of high school seniors even remotely mature enough to deal with the pressures and time demands of the course, much less actual practice.

    Of the fourteen I started with in the first class, only two finished, and neither one tested.

    With the second class, I implemented an entrance interview. Prospective students, and their parents, had to attend. In the interview, I made clear what the academic and emotional demands of the course would entail, and that it may well interfere with their extracurricular activities and social life. I pulled no punches with the parents, informing them that they training their child was to receive prepared them for a career of drudgery, low pay, disrespect, emotional and psychological trauma, and only a very occasional chance to save a life. I then tried to gauge the students' (and parents) motivation and dedication.

    Of 17 interviewed, 11 declined to enroll. The six who did all finished, and all passed their NREMT. As far as I know, at least two are still practicing.

    I think that, if a high school student is to pursue a career in EMS, there must be absolutely none of the illusions we foster in recruiting potential ambulance fodder. None of this heroism, saving lives every day bullshit. Be prepared for a very high attrition rate in class, and understand that it takes a very special high schooler to do it. Even your garden variety honor students aren't stern enough material.

    But the ones that do manage to do it, are the ones that we need in EMS, the people who will make a career of it, or at least still hold a passion for EMS long after they've left the streets. We need more of those kids, and less of the twenty-something adrenaline junkies we have now.

  • Marcus Gary

    As a 19 year old EMT-I who earned his Basic his senior year of highschool (took it through the community college on my own time and money) I can see both sides of this issue. I do not in any way, shape, or form agree with any 911 call being responded to only by teenagers. Their experience level, their knowledge and skills, and their emotional range is not conducive to EMS work. Call me old-fashioned, but seeing brains smeared on the road or somebody with half of their face missing is hard enough as an adult. I wouldn't want to witness it at 14, and I don't think anyone should have to.

    I also don't believe that 14 and 15 year olds have the mental abilities to recognize and treat some life-threatening illnesses. Part of the reason why the drinking age is 21 is that your prefontal cortex (the part of your brain that houses your conscience and your ability to think through consequences) is not fully developed until approximately age 22-25. That being said, there are times when a judgement call must be made and it's not clearly outlined in the protocols. While most of these questions are in at least the ILS or ALS range, BLS providers are bound to come across a situation where they have to get creative in stabilizing C-spine on a patient, using the right materials to make an occlusive chest seal when one is not readily available, etc. If there's one thing you learn in EMS, it's expect the unexpected. That person that fire took one look at and said is dead will be breathing. That person who only has SOB will be having an MI. That drunk who tripped will have managed to give himself a bleed and have increasing ICP. On the most basic of calls that you think can be handled by a couple of teenagers, something will happen and the patient will deteriorate rapidly. Nothing is routine.

    It is for these reasons that an experienced adult (or in my opinion, 2) EMS provider is needed. However, I have no problem with allowing the 14-16 year olds who prove their maturity and intellect to ride third. When they turn 18 let them get their real cert and run as one of the actual ambulance attendants. Until then, they should be happy to settle for being the kid on the rig who holds my IV bag on-scene. Hell, I was 18 and I was more than happy to be the bag-carrier or stretcher-fetcher for the couple of months while I was in the middle of my basic class and riding thirds on a provisional. If both they and the parents understand that they might see graphic and gory accident scenes and be right next to drunk homeless people who want to suddenly get violent in the back of the rig, then let them get the valuable experience that will help them on their path to being a real EMT.

    Make a cadet program. Have 14-18 year olds getting valuable experience but not actually running the calls. They can use their basic skills under the supervision of an experienced adult provider (maybe an I or a P?) just my $.02.

  • Marcus G

    Ambulance Driver, I completely agree with 90% of what you said. My EMT training that I enrolled in on my own through the college my senior year is what got me interested in a career in medicine. I transfer to SUU next semester to major in pre-med. I hope to eventually become a skilled, competent, and caring ER Physician and a dedicated Medical Director of a small-moderate sized ambulance service.

    I can remember how difficult EMT-B was as a highschooler. I read the entire book before the first day of class so that class lecture and practice was a review of what I'd already read. It was still difficult.

    I agree with your interview process and screening for students. If motivated and doing it for the right reasons, EMT-B can be an excellent pathway into further EMS or medicine as a whole. For others, perhaps it can teach them that they aren't cut out for EMS or medicine and need to start entertaining new career options.

  • http://twitter.com/shell1972 Shelly Wilcoxson

    It's not that far from the truth but it's boils down to the same scenario no matter if you are 18 opr 28 and just goin into EMS and I know 29 year olds not as mature as some 18 year olds.

  • http://twitter.com/veryslowloris Liam Sullivan

    Thanks for the article. All I can offer is anecdotal evidence, but I know four or five EMTs who did their basic classes in high school. They are from New Jersey and Massachusetts, and at least in the MA case the state made an exception to the minimum age rule (16 instead of 18) for EMT licensure for certain towns in order to alleviate some of the stress on the mutual aid program. These towns didn't have their own EMS and needed a BLS truck or two. This wasn't an effort to drive down wages or anything silly like that. They were all volunteers.

    The training was longer than the standard EMT-B course, and taught at a higher level than most. To teach at a high school, you need a bachelors degree, minimum. Often a masters. I have no doubt that these students were held to a high standard in class. And they passed the same state or national exam that we all took. These guys are the best EMTs I know, hands down.

    Finally, age is NOT a good indicator of maturity. I've learned that working with 30, 40, 50, and 60 year old partners. A 16 year old who just passed the written and practical EMT exams is just as competent as a 25 year old in the same position. If anything, getting involved early shows initiative and promise. I say stop pouting and get with the program – we need more of these kinds of people in our profession.

    Liam
    21 y/o medic student

  • http://www.twitter.com/jonathantullos Jonathan Tullos

    I don't understand why anyone things this is a good idea. First, we're talking about children here, not an 18 year old college student. These kids have no business practicing and I certainly would not want them working on me or one of my loved ones. I would want them to get someone there who wasn't still out getting drunk everyday weekend and worrying about the prom. This is a joke and, as CK said, is a slap in the face to real EMS. I'm all for explorers and students doing rides; I have absolutely no problem with that. However, I do have a problem with these KIDS practicing on their own. It's disgusting.

  • http://twitter.com/shell1972 Shelly Wilcoxson

    It's not that far from the truth but it's boils down to the same scenario no matter if you are 18 opr 28 and just goin into EMS and I know 29 year olds not as mature as some 18 year olds.

  • http://twitter.com/veryslowloris Liam Sullivan

    Thanks for the article. All I can offer is anecdotal evidence, but I know four or five EMTs who did their basic classes in high school. They are from New Jersey and Massachusetts, and at least in the MA case the state made an exception to the minimum age rule (16 instead of 18) for EMT licensure for certain towns in order to alleviate some of the stress on the mutual aid program. These towns didn't have their own EMS and needed a BLS truck or two. This wasn't an effort to drive down wages or anything silly like that. They were all volunteers.

    The training was longer than the standard EMT-B course, and taught at a higher level than most. To teach at a high school, you need a bachelors degree, minimum. Often a masters. I have no doubt that these students were held to a high standard in class. And they passed the same state or national exam that we all took. These guys are the best EMTs I know, hands down.

    Finally, age is NOT a good indicator of maturity. I've learned that working with 30, 40, 50, and 60 year old partners. A 16 year old who just passed the written and practical EMT exams is just as competent as a 25 year old in the same position. If anything, getting involved early shows initiative and promise. I say stop pouting and get with the program – we need more of these kinds of people in our profession.

    Liam
    21 y/o medic student

  • emtgnome

    In my area of MD, many high schools have 'cadet' programs, much like the tech school combo you described. You must be 16 years old to begin, and be associated with a fire department (EMS runs out of fire depts in MD). If you are under the age of 18, you are permitted to ride calls on the ambulance (most departments have rules for junior members that put limits on how long they can be at the station and grade point avgs, etc), but are NOT allowed to be the primary provider until 18 years old. There must always be an adult provider doing patient care with the junior member. Personally, I have no problem with EMT-B's under 18, as long as tey aren't the primary provider.

    Now, the issue I have is with allowing kids who are 16 years old to be fully operational firefighters, even with parental permission…

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    Hi Chris,

    Interesting article.

    I started volunteering as a high school junior and, decades later, ran the EMT side of a fire/ems vocational program for juniors and seniors at a rural high school.

    The seniors with EMT cards responded on campus as ems first responders (4-10 responses a year).

    Three points:

    STEALING YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE TO MEET A MUNICIPAL STAFFING SHORTFALL

    I get angry reading about programs that allow high school students to respond from school on “serious” fires, wrecks or ems calls. Or allow them to sleep over/stay late at the fire station on school nights.

    About once a month I would learn about a crash involving one of my students “responding” to the fire station/incident in a private vehicle. Teenager+adrenaline+worn out car = crash.

    EMOTIONAL IMPACT

    “This American Life” looked at one of the people that was a teenaged ambulance driver,
    go here to hear the broadcast:
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/
    ($.99 download)
    related Firegeezer post
    http://firegeezer.com/2008/08/05/adolescent-tra

    PHYSIOLOGICALLY UNDERDEVELOPED “YOUNG ADULTS”

    Allstate insurance identified physiology and peer pressure when trying to reduce the rate of fatal/disabling teenage car crashes. See this link: http://tinyurl.com/yk2da9g
    “Social Pressure, Brain Development, and the Attitudes They Breed.”

    From that report:

    16 year olds have crash rates three times higher than 17 year olds and five times higher than 18 year olds. Car crashes injure about 300,000 teens a year and kill nearly 6000.

    When bright, mature teenagers do something stupid, it may not be their fault. The dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex part of the adolescent brain is underdeveloped. This part of the brain plays a critical role in decision making, problem solving and understanding future consequences of today’s actions

    Temple University Psychology Professor Laurence Steinberg writes in the Allstate report that “By the age of 15 or 16, for example, most teenagers’ logical reasoning skills are the same as adult’s. Their emotional and social development a this age, however, is still relatively immature.” This explains the relatively tight high school behavioral rules and regulations.

    Colleges and universities struggle with this issue when it comes to freshman and sophomore behavior.

    At one time the University of Maryland suggested moving freshman and sophomore students to regional schools or community colleges, restricting on-campus housing at the College Park campus to juniors, seniors and graduate students.

    Like the Allstate car crash research, there is a significant decline in damages and “stupid college tricks” once students get into their 20’s.

  • emtgnome

    In my area of MD, many high schools have 'cadet' programs, much like the tech school combo you described. You must be 16 years old to begin, and be associated with a fire department (EMS runs out of fire depts in MD). If you are under the age of 18, you are permitted to ride calls on the ambulance (most departments have rules for junior members that put limits on how long they can be at the station and grade point avgs, etc), but are NOT allowed to be the primary provider until 18 years old. There must always be an adult provider doing patient care with the junior member. Personally, I have no problem with EMT-B's under 18, as long as tey aren't the primary provider.

    Now, the issue I have is with allowing kids who are 16 years old to be fully operational firefighters, even with parental permission…

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    Hi Chris,

    Interesting article.

    I started volunteering as a high school junior and, decades later, ran the EMT side of a fire/ems vocational program for juniors and seniors at a rural high school.

    The seniors with EMT cards responded on campus as ems first responders (4-10 responses a year). As part of the program the kids were members of their hometown volunteer fire department and would have duty nights and weekend duty,

    Three points:

    STEALING YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE TO MEET A MUNICIPAL STAFFING SHORTFALL

    I get angry reading about programs that allow high school students to respond from school on “serious” fires, wrecks or ems calls. Or allow them to sleep over/stay late at the fire station on school nights.

    About once a month I would learn about a crash involving one of my students “responding” to the fire station/incident in a private vehicle. Teenager+adrenaline+worn out car = crash.

    EMOTIONAL IMPACT

    “This American Life” looked at one of the people that was a teenaged ambulance driver,
    go here to hear the broadcast:
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/
    ($.99 download)
    related Firegeezer post
    http://firegeezer.com/2008/08/05/adolescent-tra

    PHYSIOLOGICALLY UNDERDEVELOPED “YOUNG ADULTS”

    Allstate insurance identified physiology and peer pressure when trying to reduce the rate of fatal/disabling teenage car crashes. See this link: http://tinyurl.com/yk2da9g
    “Social Pressure, Brain Development, and the Attitudes They Breed.”

    From that report:

    16 year olds have crash rates three times higher than 17 year olds and five times higher than 18 year olds. Car crashes injure about 300,000 teens a year and kill nearly 6000.

    When bright, mature teenagers do something stupid, it may not be their fault. The dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex part of the adolescent brain is underdeveloped. This part of the brain plays a critical role in decision making, problem solving and understanding future consequences of today’s actions

    Temple University Psychology Professor Laurence Steinberg writes in the Allstate report that “By the age of 15 or 16, for example, most teenagers’ logical reasoning skills are the same as adult’s. Their emotional and social development a this age, however, is still relatively immature.” This explains the relatively tight high school behavioral rules and regulations.

    Colleges and universities struggle with this issue when it comes to freshman and sophomore behavior.

    At one time the University of Maryland suggested moving freshman and sophomore students to regional schools or community colleges, restricting on-campus housing at the College Park campus to juniors, seniors and graduate students.

    Like the Allstate car crash research, there is a significant decline in damages and “stupid college tricks” once students get into their 20’s.

  • NeilMcD

    My thoughts are pretty much along the same lines that Chris and lot of people have expressed here but one thing I haven't seen is the power of the high school programs to get kids who otherwise wouldn't be interested in this field involved.

    As someone who doesn't fit the typical mold of first responders, I'm always looking for for ways to get beyond that “good ol' boys network” that our professions are accused of having. These programs seem like they would be a great way to achieve that.

    Are there any statistics that show how successful these programs are in a) bringing in non-traditional people into the field and b) do they have decreased turnover rates compared to other EMS professionals who didn't go through a similar program?

  • http://twitter.com/MedicSBK Scott

    Chris,

    I too am a product of a Cadet program. I took my EMT at age 16 with five friends who I had met through EMS from other departments. The oldest of us was 18. We did it after school two nights a week, and all still managed to maintain good GPAs in school. I think the success of a young EMT in this sort of setting depends on the environment they are exposed to. If they are allowed to run a muck and do what they please (and I've seen this happen) they will lack the discipline needed to succeed in this field. If they operate in a structured department with rules, guidelines and plenty of opportunities to learn and receive guidance, I think they can be successful.

    I do, however, agree that no one under the age of 18 should be the primary caretaker on a call. Let me tell you a bit about the program I was involved in..

    At no time was I allowed to leave school to respond to a call. I had to maintain a minimum average grade of a C or higher if I was to be allowed to ride on the rig.

    Until the age of 18, I was only able to function as a third of fourth on the rig, and if any calls were “unknowns” OB Emergencies, Psych calls, MVAs, or structure fires I was not allowed to run them.

    Finally, I was only allowed to ride until 8pm on school nights.

    I saw some stuff prior to the age of 18 that a lot of other people wouldnt see for a lifetime. I did my first code at 16, and did CPR for the first time at the age of 17. I think the thing that made a difference was the environment that I was in. The area that I grew up in was saturated with some of the best techs I've had the pleasure of working with, and many of them were quick to share their knowledge and experience. As a result, they took care of us 'kids.'

    The majority of these rules were self-imposed. When I came into the Squad with my parents, I was the only cadet, but I was quickly followed by 5 other sons and daughters of some other squad members. A few of us took it upon ourselves to design a cadet program modeled after some of the better ones int he state, and I really feel that we succeeded.

    Out of the 6 of us that were Cadets with my squad, three of us are still certified practicing EMTs 13 years later.

    Finally, I also just want to add that I think having the opportunity to volunteer at a young age has made me into a better provider today. Back then, I did it because I wanted to be there, and I wanted to help. I didnt do it for the glory, and I understood that for the most part it was a thankless job. Today though, I think I view the job differently than some who are walking in off the street who has never had a chance to volunteer.

    Just my $0.02!

  • http://www.tigerschmittendorf.com Tiger Schmittendorf

    Chris -

    Seeing as how you dragged me into this (through shameless name dropping), please allow me to bring my knife to your gun fight. LOL

    I wholeheartedly agree that at the root of this issue is the fact that EMS personnel are grossly underpaid, yet responsible for a great number of lives.

    And, my ears perked when you identified that this systemic problem is perpetuated by EMS employers who pay new EMTs just enough to wet their appetite and entice them to take on more and more responsibility for some of the worst pay rates across almost every industry. I hadn't considered that previously. The reality is that EMS can be a part-time job with full-time and long-lasting responsibilities.

    I also caution those who use juveniles in providing anything more than the most basic of first aid — and only in the absence of higher, adult provider care.

    As I've said more than once, when considering involving youth in fire and emergency services, the first question to ask is “What's right for the young adult?”

    The second question to ask is, “Are they physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for what they MAY be exposed to?” As a parent and as a fire service leader, I may answer those questions from different perspectives but my answers are going to be consistent.

    I am a strong advocate for appropriately managed and monitored Explorer, Junior Firefighter and similar youth programs in the fire service. As you know, I'm a product of that environment. But that doesn't mean we should allow those individuals to act “out of title” just to maintain their interest level or to satisfy our perceived solution to our staffing issues.

    However, I don't know of a single emergency services youth program that has been designed or executed for the purpose of creating more sheep to be lead to poor-pay slaughter.

    EMS training at the high school level has been around for a long time and has a history of tremendous success. That's been our experience with our own high school's program.

    Perhaps we all need to be reminded that at the end of EMS is the word “Service” — and any opportunity to put our young people on a positive path towards a lifetime of service — is a good opportunity.

    Frankly, these program advocates, instructors, managers and participants are not the problem. Our health care system is the problem.

    Remember, we cannot discount the inexperienced for it's how all of us experienced responders got our start.

    All I ask is that we don't shoot the messenger.

    Great discussion. Thanks for bringing it to the table.

    Stay safe. Train often.

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  • http://www.lifeunderthelights.com Ckemtp

    Incidentally Kelly, my first CPR loss was the director of my Boy Scout Camp. I was 14 and had got my CPR cert that summer at that very camp he directed.
    Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone

  • http://www.lifeunderthelights.com Ckemtp

    Incidentally Kelly, my first CPR loss was the director of my Boy Scout Camp. I was 14 and had got my CPR cert that summer at that very camp he directed.
    Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone

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  • francisbaker

    Chris, After reading more over here, you have apparently hit a chord that is either sweet or sour based on ones personal ideas of what EMS should be and what EMS truly is. I can agree with the lousy pay (even though I work for a government agency), lousy shifts, poor equipment, etc., etc., etc., that we ALL suffer from. Status and recognition? It depends on where you are and how interactions between the 'gods' of medicine view EMS. We have all hopefully had some good along with the bad. Changing our image? We definitely need that, and it has to come from a unified front with EVERYONE doing there darndest to project a POSITIVE, PROFESSIONAL image whether paid, volunteer or somewhere in between! The use of anyone under the age of 18 as a 'prime' caregiver is fraut with legal issues, depending on the State you live in. Maturity is NOT an age item, but a personal one. I personally know people in this business who have been around 20 plus years and are still extremely immature. I do believe the 'junior emt' programs are a good thing overall. Any young person still in high school willing to put in the time and effort to learn this business is, in my opinion, very mature. While their judgements may be not in line with what we feel they should be, it is our job, if you will, to give them the insight of experience to mold a more mature and diagnostic nature. The replacements for any organization must come from the ranks of the young. It is our duty to recruit these young people that are interested and give them a positive role model to follow and mentor. I am nearing the end of my EMS career. At 61, I still enjoy, nay, live for the rush, the feeling of having made a difference and even saving a life. My first 'ambulance' run occured when I was 14 (back in the dark ages) when the local PD (my dad was a cop) ran the ambulance with the local funeral home and the Caddy Ambulance was for high-speed runs (50 miles) to the hospital for treatment. Oxygen, CPR and a few bandages made up the 'kit' in those days. Did this early exposure hurt? I don't think so as I have been in and out of this business since then. Stints in the Army, Government Service, Law Enforcement have always kept EMS near to me. Enough of the 'war stories'. The bottom line is the EMS needs new, enthusiastic young men and women to fill the ranks. It is our job to do what we can to try and make this a more professional career field, show by doing that we deserve respect from others in the medical field and that we ARE THE FIRST CONTACT with the medical field that most people have. Keep on writing the stirring articles to get reactions. And for the rest of you out there, step back, look in the mirror and evaluate, realistically that person you see in the mirror. Are you professional? Do you project a professional image? Do you act like a professional? Are you perceived as a professional? During military and law enforcement training it used to be stressed that the 'image' (presence) that you portray is how you will be percieved. Be honest, and if you see some areas of improvement, work on it, I do! REMEMBER, BE SAFE OUT THERE.

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  • CBEMT

    “In this case, a student that is PROPERLY QUALIFIED can fill in the gap left by a part-time 'school nurse.' I would love to see properly trained EMT-B's full time at schools.”

    How can a 110-hour EMT possibly “fill the gap” by even a certificate course RN? Nevermind an ADN or BSN.

    Children have ZERO business making what could easily be life and death decisions for other children.

  • http://firstduemedic.com The Gate Keeper

    I could not agree with you more, only because I am a product of and a current observer of the problem.

    Years ago I was one of those over zealous EMT. I caused my share of problems before an 'ol seasoned vetren sat me down one day and explained something to me. You see, I was a smart kid and I knew what to do and how to do it right; I just didn't have the matuirty to carry it off too well. This 'ol salty dog of an EMT told me “Nobody will care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

    Sure I laughed then, only because I didn't understand what he was getting at. I just wanted to run the lights and sirens and make people get out of my way. I had no idea what a heart attack was. I didn't truly understand what a KED was used for and I certainly didn't know how to gauge my actions to result in a good outcome for the patient.

    Today, with several years of life experience under my belt I can sit back and see what I must have looked like. I ain't pretty.

    There is this one station in my area whose primary provider is an 18yo kid who doesn't have a clue. I run into him all the time in town and at the ER and see his shoddy workmanship. I try, as do others, to tell him in a nice way that he's not doing some things right. He could care less. The management at this station could care less for the simple fact that HE and one or two others cover 95% of the calls; no exagerations.

    In summation…I would rather see the community go without volunteer coverage just to force the local government to step in and force adequate care. Luckily they have here, but I am flexing my patience muscle on this one.

  • 20h10

    As what is getting to an old guy in EMS, I have to agree with your concerns, but maybe not for the exact reasons you gave. I think it is awesome that young people want to learn and to apply their training and perhaps save a life. I agree that standards are standards. I also know from 22 years of being in EMS that a vast majority of the folks we run trauma calls on fall into the 16-24 year old bracket. The short, simple reason for this is that they do not have the maturity and the experience for their bodies to cash the checks that they have written by their impulsive and sometimes stupid actions. We old guys don;t have the market cornered on being immune from doing dumb things, but years, scars and experience have taught us a modicum of restraint that is absent in the young.

    EMS is not about actions, it is a process of thought coupled with actions. It is about bringing all of your talents and abilities to bear in solving a difficult situation. It requires you to put aside emotion, feelings and impulse and focus totally on your patient and their needs to the exclusion of all else. In short it requires a discipline that takes time to develop and it is generally lacking in the High School populace.

    I am the assistant Chief of a small rescue squad in Northern Illinois. I have found that if I can keep my early 20 somethings from doing something incredibly stupid until they hit about 23-25 then they tend to do very well. They have the technique, they have the knowledge, but what factors into the application of that knowledge has too many variables until some years get added on. Do you think maybe there is a reason one can't be a Congressman until 25, a Senator till 30 and President until 35? It is not about ability- it is about maturity

  • http://sixlettervariable.blogspot.com/ Christopher

    You can stream the This American Life clip free, and I recommend it…but support public radio though and download :-)

  • Capt. Tom

    Wow, I can't ever remember seeing this many responses to a blog post with 100% of them being thoughtful and well reasoned as well as politely and professionally written. This speaks well of every writer. Now watch me blow it for all of us…
    Background: 30+ years in Scouting (over a 40+year period) focusing on what it takes to build the youth of America into something both we and THEY can be proud of. Currently serving as the Captain of a volley EMS Squad in a rural Fire Department. We get a fair number of young enthusiastic members coming in and getting their EMT-B at a young age. In our state, the minimum is 18 years old.
    I would politely chide many of the posters for not reading the information offered in the original post to gain a proper appreciation of what the Darian Post is doing. They have 25 adults, and if you had followed the links you would realize that the adults serve as the crew leaders on calls. So much for having your MI diagnosed by a 16 y/o. I also very much doubt that these rigs are being driven by 17 year olds, as it would not mesh with the insurance profile let alone common sense.
    Also I note that they have a very rigid and decided acceptance and training program. It tales a lot of effort to make the grade in this group and climb your way up. The available youth are accepted based on MATURITY and capability.
    Past experience in well run Scouting programs has taught me that you should never underestimate the capabilities of a properly trained, well grounded, young person. I have seen youth do things, create and execute plans, that many with years of college and experience could only wonder at. (Sidebar: I was backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico on an 11 day trek with my Scouts when we got caught in a hailstorm during the climb of a 10,000 foot peak. I did not get my rain gear on quickly, was soaked in sweat, the ambient temperatuer dropped 20 degrees in 10 minutes, and the climb drained me. On reaching our camping point for the night in a solid downpour I informed the Scouts that I was entering hypothermia and we could no longer wait out the rain under the sparse trees. There was no hesitation, they set up camp, pitched my tent, got me undressed and into a sleeping bag, cooked dinner, delivered it to me, made sure I ate it, got hot liquids into me, and kept an eye on me all night. I was in no shape to give directions at that point (coordination gone, mental abilities limited). The next morning I was wobbly but good to go. We were 2 days hike from a road and I (we) would have been in deep trouble without proper care. I put my safety and care in the hands of my Scouts and there was no hesitation.)
    Having said that, I do worry about the emotional burden these youth will carry. I am guessing (hoping) that they have a safety net in place which keeps these youth from the very ugly calls. Good lord, we do that in our agency just to save our experienced responders from going through the process. (Pick two responders and send them in, keep the others back to minimize the burden we all carry.)
    It takes great care to ease new people into this profession on an emotional level when the subject persons are still in the developmental ages. I have taken flack from many of my people for 'holding them back' on the ugly jobs. This take a lot of finesse and many times a strong hand. But each person responds differently (I fall to pieces after every animal rescue, I don't know why, just don't talk to me) as we all know and as an Officer, leader, and the person responsible for their well-being I do what is best for them and hold them back a little less each time until I find where they are in need of support and where they can do well. This takes time. The Post in question appears to have some sort of system to enable this process.
    I say that until we know more about how they are doing the fine job they are doing we give them the benefit of the doubt. If it is common sense (certain precautions and exemptions) to you and I, don't you think it might have occurred to them also?
    I am in favor of exposing youth to the opportunities that are available to them at the youngest age possible. These are the years that they are beginning to make decisions about life. Wait just another couple of years and you have lost them forever. Their High School “advisers” would have them going to college to become web developers because 'that's very big now'.
    And I couldn't let this go without one further comment about maturity: I consider everyone under the age of 35 to be a 'youth' and their maturity on the job must be demonstrated to me in person before I trust their judgment. I have seen too many who are old enough “to know better” get that damned 'lights and sirens thing' in their heads and it is the damnedest thing to try and correct.
    Now on the subject of damaging the profession, I would suggest that we have a 'apples and oranges' discussion going on here. Some are looking at their metropolitan systems with commercial ALS agencies competing with Volunteer agencies and they are seeing a threat. I would suggest that we need to consider that not all areas are the same. Take the agency in Alaska that covers 10,000 square miles and is 98% volunteer. These communities need to find what works for them. The Agency in Alaska is not threatening the System in Chicago or Baltimore. They are different, with differing needs and differing resources, and differing capabilities. One size does not fit all and we need to keep that in mind as we go forward. Darian does not have the call volume to go with dual Medic Rigs. Sometime in the future it just might, but not now.
    Anyway, my 2 pennies off the top of my pointed and aged head.
    Capt. Tom
    (formerly the “Old Scoutmaster” (I want to go back to Philmont))

  • CBEMT

    They have 25 adults, and if you had followed the links you would realize that the adults serve as the crew leaders on calls. So much for having your MI diagnosed by a 16 y/o. I also very much doubt that these rigs are being driven by 17 year olds, as it would not mesh with the insurance profile let alone common sense.

    Yeah, abou that- from 53's website:

    Ambulance Driver: To be eligible for the role of ambulance driver, a young adult EMT must have at least six months driving experience and a clean driving record. They must pass rigid practical and written tests. At the beginning of each shift, drivers are responsible for checking all systems on the ambulance, i.e., lights, sirens, radios, gas, tires, etc. The Driver's main responsibility is to get the ambulance to the scene and to the hospital safely with proper consideration for the condition of the patient and road safety.

    Crew Chief: (must be an EMT) The most experienced and skilled (BLS) members, usually in their Senior year, are selected by the Officers and the Advisor to become Crew Chiefs based upon patient care, leadership and overall maturity.”

    So not only are the children driving, they're in charge of patient care.

    If you need more proof, here's the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UPDNEMT5Do

    See any adults present on those calls?

  • Josh

    I do not support being under the age of 18 and being an EMT. I'm a fairly young EMT, 20 years old, and I get looks sometimes when I hop out of the rig to treat a patient, hell some of my patients family members have been quite hostile towards me just on account of my age. However I show them that age is not always an issue. Now while I fully support having explorer type programs and even having First Responder classes taught in HS, full blown EMT programs are not needed. Here in Mass. there are more than enough EMT's that we do not need high school students to “fill the gap”. Trying to get a job in good economic times is hard enough, not to mention now. I do not however agree with one comment that says EMT's should be at least 21 years old. At 18 you are an adult, by law, you can own a house, join the military, etc… you should be allowed to be an EMT. But having EMT programs in HS is a bit of overkill.

  • teenemt

    I completely disagree with this article and most of the comments posted. Obviously none of you have ever worked with an EMT under the age of 18, or are not in the EMS line of work. In which case you shouldn't be talking. EMT-B's under the age of 18 take the work and training so much more seriously than the majority of adults. If you go into an EMT-B class you will see that there are many adults and only a few teenagers. A lot a reasoning behind why there aren't that many teen EMT's is because of little knowledge of the fact that there are such programs and the time to take the course. That said the teenagers who do go through with it are more than capable. When I was going through my EMT class the teenagers were always the students who got hundreds on their tests every time, while numerous incapable, (and frankly stupid) adults were stilling passing with 70%'s which was in-fact the norm of things. Or in a lot of cases getting dropped from the course. Not one teenager was dropped from the course. Coming at the same point from a different angle EMT-B care is a good amount of training for skills of which the majority, are first aid skills. In many cases lay people, or the patient themselves can do more than an EMT-B can. Unless of course the are unconscious, but still their family can do more in a lot of cases than we can. For example taking Blood Glucose readings, or administering the medications (other than a select few that we can administer.) This is a major flaw in the EMS system but that argument is for a different time. Again approaching from a different angle; paid EMT-B's are in most cases I've seen, not the sharpest tools in the shed. I've been with multiple agencies, organizations, and training environments. It's just a fact that is pretty well known. Not to say they are incapable in the slightest because they aren't. The people I've come in contact with are very experienced and I would be proud to go with them on any call. But in many cases they are high school drop outs or others of the sort. I'm not saying at all they are incapable just when it comes to information/, and subject outside of the EMS world a lot are not well learned. EMT-B teenagers in HIGH SCHOOL, are therefore obviously not drop outs. All organizations that I have come in contact with keep a close eye on the teenagers in the program and make sure they are keeping their grades high and are well rounded. Lot's of Teen EMT-B's know more about the field before they even start class than adults who are already in the field. I'm a seventeen year old EMT-B and this field is my passion. This is what I love to do and it's great that it is available to me. I don't play sports, am not into arts or that sort of thing. Those are the programs offered in high schools all around. I am so grateful for programs that allow EMT members under 18. I don't know what I would do without it. It's an incredible thing to be a part of. I take my responsibilities more seriously than the vast majority of the people I work with and so do my colleges that are also under 18. I'm very glad to be apart of the EMS world. We are as capable as anyone else.

  • teenemt

    I completely disagree with this article and most of the comments posted. Obviously none of you have ever worked with an EMT under the age of 18, or are not in the EMS line of work. In which case you shouldn't be talking. EMT-B's under the age of 18 take the work and training so much more seriously than the majority of adults. If you go into an EMT-B class you will see that there are many adults and only a few teenagers. A lot a reasoning behind why there aren't that many teen EMT's is because of little knowledge of the fact that there are such programs and the time to take the course. That said the teenagers who do go through with it are more than capable. When I was going through my EMT class the teenagers were always the students who got hundreds on their tests every time, while numerous incapable, (and frankly stupid) adults were stilling passing with 70%'s which was in-fact the norm of things. Or in a lot of cases getting dropped from the course. Not one teenager was dropped from the course. Coming at the same point from a different angle EMT-B care is a good amount of training for skills of which the majority, are first aid skills. In many cases lay people, or the patient themselves can do more than an EMT-B can. Unless of course the are unconscious, but still their family can do more in a lot of cases than we can. For example taking Blood Glucose readings, or administering the medications (other than a select few that we can administer.) This is a major flaw in the EMS system but that argument is for a different time. Again approaching from a different angle; paid EMT-B's are in most cases I've seen, not the sharpest tools in the shed. I've been with multiple agencies, organizations, and training environments. It's just a fact that is pretty well known. Not to say they are incapable in the slightest because they aren't. The people I've come in contact with are very experienced and I would be proud to go with them on any call. But in many cases they are high school drop outs or others of the sort. I'm not saying at all they are incapable just when it comes to information/, and subject outside of the EMS world a lot are not well learned. EMT-B teenagers in HIGH SCHOOL, are therefore obviously not drop outs. All organizations that I have come in contact with keep a close eye on the teenagers in the program and make sure they are keeping their grades high and are well rounded. Lot's of Teen EMT-B's know more about the field before they even start class than adults who are already in the field. I'm a seventeen year old EMT-B and this field is my passion. This is what I love to do and it's great that it is available to me. I don't play sports, am not into arts or that sort of thing. Those are the programs offered in high schools all around. I am so grateful for programs that allow EMT members under 18. I don't know what I would do without it. It's an incredible thing to be a part of. I take my responsibilities more seriously than the vast majority of the people I work with and so do my colleges that are also under 18. I'm very glad to be apart of the EMS world. We are as capable as anyone else.

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  • Alex

    This is a very late comment. But coming from the point of view of someone who recently finished high school (graduated 2009) and just got his EMT Cert. I think being allowed to receive your EMT Cert in high school is fine. The cert itself does not entitle you to a job. I think the maturity level and professionalism issue is one to be addressed in the job interview and the probational period. I for one, believe I am mature enough to handle myself in a position of such responsibility. I also believe that I will be able to reflect that when I receive a job interview. It seems to me, having the chance to groom a young set of motivated students to be the best generation of pre-hospital care providers they can be is an opportunity. I've heard a lot of talk about wanting change in EMS from the fire-ems blogosphere. What could be a better chance at change than the chance to instill the right attitude and right knowledge in the future generation at the earliest and most malleable stage?

    Now…from a practical stand point I have yet to practice what I preach. Still working on getting a part time job as an EMT while I go to college.

  • ilemt

    In this neck of the woods, school RN's disappeared about two decades ago, currently leaving the schools with nothing but a wait of up to 15 minutes before the ALS ambulance or BLS fire squad arrives. Also, while every school has an AED since 2005 only the gym teachers are required to get certified in it's use.

    I would see no problem with a FIRST RESPONDER class for h.s. Juniors and Seniors.
    - BLS, Spinal Imob, o2, Epi-pen, AED –
    The schools already offer C.N.A (taught at the local hospitals)

    The state mandates 18 with Diploma before registering for an EMT-B class. And (I believe)
    20/21 for consideration as a medic student. (which is an associate degree program)

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  • http://twitter.com/paulwilson7 Paul Wilson

    I was all set to be angry about this post since I am a High School teacher who teaches EMTs in a MN High School. But I end up agreeing with the entire article. The facts might be wrong here or there, but IF there is little or no adult supervision and IF these are under 18, I am full agreement. I have 16-18 year olds in class. It takes a year of 1.5 hr/5 days a week class to get them the background knowledge to start to understand what we are talking about in emergency medicine. National Registry is says we can teach them when they are 16 and they can't test until they are 18. That is what we follow.

  • Eric

    So I haven't actually read all of these posts but I'll throw my two cents in here anyway. I'm a 17 year old emt in the Pittsburgh, PA area. My high school, nor any around us, offers an emt class. Last summer however, I took an emt class through the an EMS school that teaches any level from cpr-critical care emt-p. I was 4 weeks over the age of 16(minimum age for emt-b's in PA). I was indeed the youngest person in the class, but I was told by the instructor when it was all said and done that I was one of the hardest working students that he's ever taught. I passed all the class' quizzes and tests, plus the state tests, with my lowest grade ever being in the high 80's. Through out the class I volunteered with the ambulance service that covers my town (as a third rider to I'm not driving and always in the back with the pt). About a week after the class ended I was informed that the service insurance policy had changed and the the volunteer age was now 18. Even though I was certified and passed the tests with flying colors, I couldn't go on their trucks. I started to look at other services in the area and noticed that almost all had a minimum age of 18 just to volunteer. I found one that still had an age of 16 so I singed up to volunteer with them. I have been with them for almost a year now and love it. Here's the thing: I see nothing wrong with some one like myself going on 911 calls. I'm always with the other emt and the paramedic. I'm always under supervision but still do a lot. I have been the primary care-giver on many bls calls and love to assist the medic with als interventions on those trickier calls. Plus having me allows us to keep a low onscene time because the medic has and emt, me, in the back with him to assist with whatever he needs help with on the way. I do the exact same thing as the other emts, I'm just younger. I think in general, if high school kids can pass all the tests like everyone else, keeps their grades up, not operating the vehicle, and are not acting as the only emt on the truck, why shouldn't I be allowed to go on 911 calls? Plus I do trip sheets too-which my emt partner loves……

  • Eric

    And one additional thing that might be one of my most important points. I have seen and learned so much. My first code was an 18 year old od on heroine. I wasn't planning on doing drugs, but after that, I don't think I could. We have a highway in our area and I have seen many bad accidents caused by using cell phones, drinking, or just plain stupid driving. Guess what I'm not doing.

  • Eric

    Please read my post lower on the page as I would just like to see what your thoughts are on our program. Thanks.

  • Acidburnhacked

    I don’t think that if you are under 18 you have the legal responsibilities of an adult. Therefore, I agree with a “cadet” program, but for goodness sakes, there is no reason why a kid should be in the back of an ambulance on their own.

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     EMT Training for High School Students: Episode 64  Kaiser paramedic firefighter and blogger discuss his recent article Saved by the Bell?

     

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Chris Kaiser aka "Ckemtp"

I am a paramedic trying to advance the idea that the Emergency Medical Services can be made into the profession that we all want it, need it, and know it deserves to be.

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