May 17-23 is National Emergency Medical Services Week. EMS Week brings together local communities and medical personnel to honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine's "front line."  Now, more than ever, Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) thanks all of our emergency first responders for their public service and celebrates its Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) students who will enter the industry in the service of others.

As part of CATEC’s Health and Medical Sciences Academy, the EMT program gives students the opportunity to learn the basics of emergency medical care. Students learn about anatomy and physiology, initial patient survey and triage, airway management, oxygen therapy, treatment of bleeding, shock, cardiac arrest, fractures, spinal injuries, and other medical emergencies. Students can become certified in American Red Cross Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers, the Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills Assessment, and the National Registry EMT- Basic certification.

 CATEC’s EMT program is dual-enrolled with Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC). Students successfully completing the program may receive 12 college credits for the courses in EMT, EMT Clinicals, First Aid and CPR, and Introduction to Medical Terminology. Students participate in a required 30-hour clinical experience at local emergency locations, including local rescue squads and the University of Virginia University Hospital. Student experiences are thoroughly documented, determining whether students can sit for their Virginia Emergency Medical Technician-Basic exam.

 Many EMT Service students return to CATEC to participate in its Fire Service program, or vice versa. Upon graduation, students can continue their education at PVCC, Reynolds Community College, or Blue Ridge Community College to study in their EMS Paramedic programs, earning an Associate of Applied Sciences. 2018 EMT and 2019 Fire Service graduate Kenley Woods enrolled at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan in August 2019. Woods is studying Maritime Engineering for four years, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Maritime Technology. Woods will graduate with his Coast Guard license and will be an Officer, First Engineer. He attributes much of his success to his accomplishments at CATEC, where he is earned 24 combined college credits and certifications in the EMT and Fire Service programs.

2020 EMT graduate Abigail Norton, who also graduated in 2019 from CATEC’s Building Trades program, used her EMT knowledge when enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University as a Pre-Heath Major. Norton said her favorite part of her EMT class is how its content overlaps with that of other classes she takes, including her Advanced Placement Biology and Advanced Placement Psychology classes. In ten years, Norton hopes to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, eventually earning her Master’s degree in emergency medicine, or hopes to be working as a nurse practitioner.

Western Albemarle High School Senior Kess Hutchinson loved his CATEC EMT course so much that he is taking the rare opportunity to return to CATEC for the 2020-2021 school year as an Emergency Medical Technician III student. The 18-year-old says that he became interested in taking the EMT class, a CATEC class that is offered on Western Albemarle High School’s campus, through another Western Albemarle teacher. When his friend hurt her arm, he wanted to help but wasn’t sure how. He asked the teacher for his advice on what the friend should do. The teacher suggested that if Hutchinson was interested in helping people who are injured, he should look into taking the EMT class the following school year. He liked the class immediately, saying, “I enjoyed just about everything the class had to offer. I thought the material was unbelievably interesting and it was all I cared to learn about in school.”

 There are many career pathways for emergency medical professionals. Most often, students can train to become an EMT/Paramedic who assesses injuries, administers emergency medical care, and extricates trapped individuals. They can also transport injured or sick persons to medical facilities. The projected job growth for EMT/Paramedics in Virginia is 20%. Professionals can also become Medical Assistants. Medical Assistants perform administrative and certain clinical duties under the direction of physicians. They can schedule appointments, maintain medical records, take and record vital signs and medical histories, prepare patients for examination, draw blood, and administer medications. On average, Virginia’s Medical Assistants earn more than the national average and can expect 35% job growth. CATEC EMT instructor Catherine Gardner says, “In EMS, new things are regularly being introduced, new research is being done, and all of this impacts our work in the field. EMS doesn’t get stagnant; there’s always something changing or improving and every day at work is different.”

 CATEC is a regional technical education center that helps high school students and adults obtain the jobs they seek. Students have opportunities to practice hands-on and work-based learning activities alongside academically-driven curricula. CATEC prides itself on its built-in value, equity-based programs, and contribution to students' learning journeys.