It’s a scene no one wants to see: an injured and shocked person after a car accident. A group of first responders wearing bright reflective vests work quickly but carefully to move the patient onto a stretcher, keeping the head and spine as still as possible. A first responder holds the patient’s head steady, while another attaches an oxygen mask. Moments later, the patient got out of the car and strapped onto the board, ready to be loaded into an ambulance.
Luckily, this scene that takes place in the Falls Church High School parking lot isn’t real, it’s just a practice. “First responders” are actually students taking the Emergency Medical Technician course at Falls Church High School Governor’s Health Sciences Academy. This lesson on extracting patients from a car helps them prepare for rides with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, where they’ll get hands-on practice with real emergencies and real patients. Tours have been suspended since March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions; but now fully vaccinated students can once again learn alongside professional first responders.
“They take these 16- and 17-year-old students and put them in the back of the ambulance with them,” said instructor Penny Kelly. “The students actually do all of the patient care while being observed by the paramedics. They go above and beyond for students.
Kelly says this hands-on learning is an essential tool for these students, many of whom hope to pursue careers in fire and rescue services or medicine. Kelly herself spent decades as a nurse, firefighter and doctor before starting the EMT program at FCPS 18 years ago. His expertise and lessons in the classroom (or in the parking lot) ensure that students are fully prepared for anything they may encounter in the real world.
The group of dedicated students donate their time on the weekends to take part in the rides, but many say it’s a valuable experience for which they are grateful.
“Hands-on learning is really fun because we get to understand everything in depth,” said Marshall High School. Natalia Teran Reyes . “When you’re learning online, you really can’t touch anything. So it’s much better.
“I really enjoy hands-on activities like taking people’s vital signs and learning about patient care,” said Mclean High School. Aziza Abdelatey. “It really helps you understand what you need to do when you’re on the pitch. Practicing on other students also helps us prepare even more for outings. »
At the end of the one-year program, students have the opportunity to earn six certifications, including EMT and CPR. In addition to working with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, students also have clinical laboratory opportunities at Northern Virginia Community College and can earn seven college credits throughout the course. But Kelly says that by the end of her course, she hopes students will retain more than skills and certifications.
“I hope they learned to be nice and they learned to be good human beings,” Kelly shared. “That’s my biggest goal.”
Students wishing to take the EMT course must be 16 years of age or older. More information about the program is available at Falls Church Academy website and West Potomac Academy website. You can also learn more by watching the video below.