Five new EMTs certified

Cordova’s all-volunteer emergency medical services team is now 20 strong

Emergency Medical Technician 1 course graduates are (left to right), Jeff Rice, Stephen Phillips, Jayleene Garrett, Micah Renfeldt, and Taylor Kimbarow. Photo by Kara Johnson/For The Cordova Times

Five new EMT1s have joined the ranks of Cordova Volunteer Emergency Services.

Jayleene Garrett, Taylor Kimbarow, Stephen Phillips, Micah Renfeldt, and Jeff Rice made the grade by completing three months of study to become Emergency Medical Technician 1s. Their course included over 200 hours of class time, plus mastery of 30 specific skills, before they could take the state EMT1 exam.

They received their EMT1 certifications on March 11.

The class, titled EMT.OEC I, ran from Jan. 9 through March 11, in the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department’s firehouse training room.

Their instructors were three Cordova EMS veterans, EMT3 Captain Joanie Behrends, EMT2 Lead CPR/First Aid instructor Kara Johnson, and EMT2 Lieutenant James Thorne.

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This new batch of EMTs brings Cordova’s all volunteer EMT squad to 20 individuals.

“Our success depends on the dedication of individuals who give up their free time at a moment’s notice, make responding to emergencies and non-emergencies a priority, and taking the time to invest in training,” Johnson said.

“Currently, our EMS squad is fairly small. We struggle to have complete shifts of medics, and have been relying increasingly on our firefighter drivers (who cannot provide patient care), to fill out an on-call squad. With the addition of five more medics, we will be better-able to ensure all responders provide top quality medical care,” she said. “This class not only helps us prepare the next group of EMTs, it also allows current EMTs to gain continuing medical education credits that are required to recertify.”

“There is a brief, ‘real-life’ scenario at the beginning of each class that gives the students a chance to use their skills. In addition, there are a couple of nights that other members of CVFD, family, and friends, volunteer to come in and play victims for longer scenarios. These give the students a chance to get feedback from their peers,” said Thorne.

EMT1 course trainees practiced emergency skills on volunteers during class drills.
Photo by Kara Johnson/For The Cordova Times

Johnson explained the EMT-training further.

“Everyone has a different learning style. With so much information dispensed in a short time frame, it is vital that we provide multi-modal teaching experiences to help the students learn the information. We make a conscious effort to have hands-on practices, oral lectures, learning games, and stimulating visuals and graphics,” said Johnson.

“Classes usually start with a hands-on scenario, where a team of three to five students must respond to an injury; these are designed to reinforce the muscle and mental memory of training. After the scenario, we do a thorough debriefing to cover what went well, and where improvements could be made. This immediate debriefing in a safe setting allows us to delve into the physical response, see where our weaknesses are, and highlight the advances we’ve made since the last scenario,” Johnson said.

“Every time we have an EMT class, everyone in the department participates in some way. Many sit in on a few classes to refresh their knowledge. We also have lots of hands-on training with dozens of ‘victims,’ and observers, to give the students a chance to demonstrate their skills. We all get reenergized by pulling together to help these excited new medics get started,” said Thorne.

“Many people in CVFD, and from the community, play a role, whether it be bringing snacks for hungry students, or sitting on the floor at the station pretending to have a broken leg on a Saturday morning. It’s everyone’s contributions that make these classes successful,” Thorne said.

Recent EMT1 graduate Micah Renfeldt has been a volunteer firefighter in Cordova for six years and an ETT (Emergency Trauma Technician), for three years, with the local EMS squad.

He’s made Cordova his home for seven years, and said he took the EMT course for numerous reasons.

“It seemed a logical progression of my emergency medical training, and it’s at no cost. That’s huge – a course like this anywhere else in the country is well over $1,000. If you took it at UAA, it’s a six-credit course. Having it available to the public at very little cost is almost unheard of. Also, for the reason we at CVFD do anything: To give as much back to the community as possible,” Renfeldt said.

Renfeldt said the course was incredibly challenging. Taken elsewhere, the EMT course load is six-months long, and in Cordova, it’s condensed into three short months.

It’s a unique challenge, balancing that kind of classwork with work and home life,” Renfeldt said. “I most-liked the practice scenarios. Volunteers get made-up with fake injuries and blood, and we use our class learning to treat them as we would if it were a real emergency. It gives one the closest thing you can get to real life.”

The hours are long, and the course requires much time away from family.

Why do they keep doing it?

“Personally, we involve ourselves as it gives us an opportunity to give back,” Renfeldt said. “We moved here because we liked the community, so it made sense that we provide something back. Plus, we get to drive the fire trucks. Who didn’t want to that as kid?”

Newly minted EMT1 Stephen Phillips been a volunteer firefighter with the Cordova Fire Department for just shy of two years. He’s a certified Fire Fighter I, and Search and Rescue Tech 3.

Phillips decided to take the EMT1 course because there’s always a need for medical professionals in Cordova, he said.

And, he enjoyed the class. “My instructors made it all worth it. Trying to cram 180-hours-plus into a brain and retain it is a challenge – EMT training is a lot of information. My classmates, fellow medics and firefighters alike, made it all fun,” he said.

“During training, we did assessments, both trauma and medical. We ran through checking the patient from head-to-toe, using a method we don’t deviate from, which allows us to provide quality care. Beyond those, we practiced immobilizing patients to backboards, splinting limbs, and providing high quality CPR and AED,” Phillips said.

Both Renfeldt and Phillips recommend the EMT course to anyone interested in medicine, or volunteering in the community. “Plus, we can always use the help,” Renfeldt said.

The Cordova Volunteer Fire Department and EMS squad is here for the community – any time, any place, any need, Johnson said.

“We depend on volunteers, and we encourage anyone interested to come down or talk with a member. We have weekly trainings on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and strive to have at least one advanced training course per year, such as Firefighter 1, EMT 1 or ETT classes. These trainings are free of charge for CVFD members, and community members are always encouraged to participate as well,” Johnson said.

This whiteboard tracked students’ progress during the EMT1 class at the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department’s training room in the firehouse.
Photo by Andrea Seay Rice/For The Cordova Times
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