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A man exits his vehicle, clutches his chest and falls to the ground. A passerby sees him lying unconscious in the parking lot and calls 911. An ambulance is dispatched to the scene. This sequence of events is just one of the simulations that students can expect to encounter as part of Harlingen CISD’s Emergency Medical Technician program.

The district’s new ambulance, as well as a partnership with South Texas Emergency Care, is helping equip students with valuable hands-on experience as they work towards their EMT certification through the Public Services Academy at HCISD.

This particular simulation allows students to practice the training they’ve received to help someone who has just suffered a heart attack. Two students tend to the patient by checking vital signs and applying chest compressions – a full-body training mannequin – while two others unload a gurney from the ambulance. Then they load him into the ambulance.

“We started a firefighter program last year,” said Dr. Alicia Noyola, Chief Academic Officer. “To complement that, we opened an EMT program. Anybody that is going through a firefighter program at some point has to get that EMT certification, and we had a lot of our Health Science students interested in the EMT program as well.”

“Our goal is to give our students in the EMT program the experience of how a real emergency situation would play out,” said Raul Alvarez, Director of Career and Technical Education.

The district worked closely with EMTs at STEC to develop the EMT program. One thing that stood out was the importance of recreating the environment an EMT operates in, and that is where the new ambulance comes in.

“Say, for instance, you’re doing an IV. Well that’s all right here in the classroom,” said Alvarez. “But in real emergency situations, you could be working on a patient suffering from trauma all while in a moving vehicle and on its way to the hospital.”

Formerly a fire-department based EMS, the new-to-HCISD ambulance, was re-outfitted with insignia denoting its status as a mobile training facility. Inside, the medical equipment, as well as the placement of equipment, adhere to strict state regulations that ensure safety, ergonomics, and ease of use by any EMT.

“This gives them a familiarity with where everything is located within an ambulance,” said Alvarez. “So that it’s not like when you go to a friend’s house, and you’re rummaging through their kitchen for a glass to drink water. Well at my house it’s right here, but in somebody else’s house, it’s somewhere else. Every ambulance is the same.”

Senior year students will start with in-class and ambulance training; they will begin practicing with a 175-pound mannequin. During their second semester, they will also have ride-along opportunities with real EMTs and paramedics in real STEC ambulances.

“In talking to students about why they are in the program, a lot of them have aspirations to be doctors or surgeons,” said Dr. Noyola. “Some said that as they’re going through college, they can get a part-time job with the certification. It’s really exciting to see kids thinking about their future and how these programs are helping and supporting them.”

In 2017, HCISD launched the Apprenticeship, Firefighters, Health Science, Media Arts and Communications, Teacher, and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics academies. Grounded in the 4 C’s – critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity – HCISD Academies go beyond the realm of traditional, secondary education to ensure students achieve post-graduation success.

To learn more about HCISD Academies, click here.

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