Democrat Photo by Dan Hust
IN TRAINING: Ruth Ackermann, foreground, enjoys a light moment with her EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class during a recent review for the final exam. Also present at the Jeffersonville First Aid Squad building that evening were, from the left, Nancy Rowinski (partially out of the shot), Ed OHalloran, Beth Hillriegel, Liz Huggler, Barbara Watson and George Conklin.
Locals Believe In Value Of Volunteering for EMS
By Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE June 23, 2000 -- Ruth Ackermanns class of 12 EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) students contains more variety than one might think.
Theres the retiree, looking to be involved in her community. Theres the college student, hoping to supplement her nursing coursework. Theres the local carpenter, addicted to the satisfaction that comes from saving lives. Theres the school teacher, who left volunteering to pursue her education and is now ready to return. And then theres the captain of a local volunteer ambulance corps, needing to refresh her knowledge and skills so as to serve the public in the best fashion possible.
They and their classmates are part of Ackermanns six-month EMT-B Original and Refresher Course or rather, were part of it, since they all took their final tests earlier this month. (Though most are still awaiting results, one has already passed for certain.)
On a recent Tuesday evening, just a few days prior to the final 126-question, state-administered exam, six of them gathered around a table at the Jeffersonville First Aid Squad building to go over vital information vital for the test and to save lives.
That number was reduced to five when George Conklin was called out to an accident, but those who remained plugged away at the multiple-choice questions some remarkably easy (usually answered by all of the above) and others appropriately difficult (with answers remembered through such catchy phrases as skin red, raise head; skin pale, raise tail).
Nancy Rowinski, Barbara Watson, Beth Hillriegel, Liz Huggler, and Ed OHalloran also rattled off rapid responses to various scenarios covering everything from shock to hypoxia to emphysema. The atmosphere was not tense, but even in the jokes there was an underlying seriousness about the review, because each knew the questions had been formed from real-life tragedies and near miracles in the past.
And each one was ready to step in to the role of EMT in their communities, filling a need that will soon become a state mandate (an EMT will have to be along for every ride, whether volunteer or paid). In fact, several of them had already served as EMTs and attended far fewer classes, since they only needed to refresh their memories. (Those new to the course attended twice a week for three to four hours a night.)
Whatever the case, in these past six months, perhaps an unexpected benefit resulted from their commitment to recertifying as or becoming an EMT: they also became a family.
Ive made new friends, acknowledged Watson. Theyre super people and professional.
This group is a devoted group, and we have a dedicated instructor, agreed Huggler.
It becomes like a second family, said Rowinski, speaking both of the class and of being involved in an ambulance corps. Youre able to read each others minds.
So heres a peek into the minds of the class members and their instructor:
Occupation: Retired teacher
Reason she got involved: Now that I have the chance and the time, this is my payback to the community.
Why others should get involved: Everybody has a skill to help someone. All you need to do is make the time.
Reasons she got involved: Im in nursing school at Sullivan County Community College. This will supplement my education, and I want to get into emergency medicine. And I like interacting with people.
Why others should get involved: You should at least try it. Its not really too big a commitment.
Occupation: School teacher
Residence: Callicoon Center
Reasons she got involved: I was a member [of the Jeff corps] nine years ago. I went away to school to finish my masters in educational technology. My husband works at night, so I have evenings, and thats when they need people. And I wanted to be able to be a part of something volunteer.
Why others should get involved: Theres a job for everybody. You dont have to go on calls. You can organize meetings, write correspondence and thank-you notes, drive the rig.
Reason he got involved: I started as a fireman with the Hankins-Fremont Center FD. My first call was a baby drowning, and I saw being a fireman wasnt enough for me. So I got certified in CPR and joined the Upper Delaware corps. Its what I wanted to do.
Why others should get involved: If I was talking to a parent, Id ask them to imagine if they were standing there [while their child desperately needed medical attention]. It takes time, but you have to organize things a little bit.
Occupation: Drug abuse counselor
Reasons she got involved: Working in a rehabs detox unit, I got jealous of the EMTs who could take blood pressures, etc. One was the captain of the Monticello corps [shes now its captain]. I loved helping people.
Why others should get involved: We need daytime riders. Thats why Monticello hired [paid] EMTs for the daytime. Ambulance riding is not for everyone we know that. But come in, give it a shot were not looking for anyone to jump into school. Once youre in it, if you like it, youre hooked.
Ruth Ackermann, Instructor
Occupation: Paid Paramedic with Town of Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corps
Residence: Kenoza Lake
Reasons she got involved: Its all Tom Gains fault! He harassed me to join the Kenoza Lake FD, and then Robin Luckey and myself volunteered to take a CPR class [to benefit the department]. [Through that,] I joined the Jeff corps in 1990, and I joined Hudson Valley [a commercial ambulance service] three months later. I enjoy it. It really is a lot of fun!
Why others should get involved: Our biggest problem is daytime riders because people work. Usually we get enough people to cover it, but its barely adequate in some places.
Courses like the one Ackermann teaches are held several times a year in various locations around the county. Ones planned for the near future include classes at the college, in Woodbourne, and another this fall in Jeff.
And no experience is required. You just need to be 18 or older.
Life experience is a great precursor to taking an EMT class, said Sue Ridley, president of the countys EMS Council and a Youngsville resident.
Rowinski added that some corps, like Monticello, also have junior member programs, where 16 and 17-year-olds can participate in the corps (under supervision, of course).
And though there are several levels of emergency medical services (EMS) one can climb through after EMT-B, those new to the field can also start out as a First Responder, or even just be a driver, bookkeeper or building caretaker, which simply requires CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training offered by most of the corps and the American Red Cross.
Most anyone can do it, said Ackermann, who is on the Regional Training Council of the Hudson Valley Regional EMS Council, and it doesnt take as much time as many believe.
People think you have to spend your whole life here, she remarked. The course is the biggest commitment of time. [At Jeff,] we only ask for [members to commit to] one 12-hour shift a week. And we average 1 1/2 to 2 hours on a call.
On such calls, many times the local fire department also responds. But there is a key difference between the fire departments and the ambulance corps, said Ackermann one that may partly explain the desperate need for volunteers in local corps.
Our siren doesnt go off, she said of the corps buildings.