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New London high school now offering EMT classes

New London — For Christyn Campbell, learning a lifesaving technique like CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is not only a practical skill but something that is intensely personal.

The high school senior is part of a group of students learning CPR and other skills as part of emergency medical responder (EMR) and emergency medical technician (EMT) classes now being offered at the New London Multi-Magnet Campus.

Campbell’s mother has a heart condition that has led to numerous hospital visits. Campbell figures that the EMR class might provide the skills to assess what’s happening and to do something about it.

Joshua Beebe, who teaches biomedical sciences and helped introduce the programs to the high school, says there has been a strong interest from students and expects their work to pay off. Students are learning critical thinking and communication skills that Beebe said serve as a “a good jumping off point to the health care field.”

In addition to his job in New London, Beebe is a paramedic working for American Ambulance and Westerly Hospital and is a health science instructor at Eastern Connecticut State University.

The EMT class, new in New London this year, was introduced through a collaboration between the school system and the New London Fire Department.

New London Fire Chief Thomas Curcio was joined in the EMR and EMT classes on Wednesday by a half-dozen firefighters to demonstrate a new device, the Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System, or LUCAS, which when strapped to a patient’s chest, performs mechanical chest compressions. Each of the students got a chance to use the device on a CPR Manikin. Curcio said new medical guidelines have firefighters performing chest compressions for 20 minutes on patients, no small feat when it is done manually. The department obtained four of the devices thanks to a $60,000 grant.

For Curcio, the new partnership with the school fulfills a longtime mission of his to expose more city youth to the fire service. An EMT certification is a requirement at the city’s fire department and becoming an increasingly invaluable skill when it comes to getting a job out of high school.

The fire department will be offering assistance in the hands-on portion of the EMT course, performing equipment demonstrations and ambulance runs with the students.

“I’ve been thinking about this for years,” Curcio said. “I’ve always wanted to get back into the school to try and get kids here in New London interested in the fire service. We don’t get a lot of New London applicants when we give a test.

“Even if they don’t want to get into the fire service they can walk out of high school and get a job with a private ambulance service," Curcio said. "It’s just a great opportunity and something I wish I had when I was in school.”

Only a small handful of high schools in the state offer such a course, and NLHS Multi-Magnet Campus Principal Jose Ortiz said it is an example of the array of offerings available in a school system that is constantly evolving. Students from any of the school district’s magnet pathways are welcomed into the class even though the biomedical sciences are part of the STEM curriculum.

Ortiz credited the fire department for its partnership and “taking this opportunity to give back to the community in a very powerful way.”

New London Fire Battalion Chief Jeffrey Rheaume, helping students at Wednesday's classes, said even those students who don’t plan to work in the health care field might find the skills useful.

“We’re talking about future jobs, but you guys may be on the street tomorrow and be able to save someone’s life,” Rheaume told students.

Mustafa “Moose” Dannett, a high school senior, said he started the EMT class as a résumé builder, having his sights set on college football and a business degree.

“But you never know, and things might turn and I could go into the medical field. Things change,” Dannett said.

Another student, 17-year-old Lashya LaPoint, plans to get into the field of physical therapy and said the class will give her an advantage coming out of high school.

Students who complete the EMT course will be prepared to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians practical and written exams. In addition to being prepared to become a state-certified EMT, students in the EMT class will also earn four college credits from the University of Connecticut through an Early College Experience program.

g.smith@theday.com

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