Cavalier County Job Development Authority(CCJDA) Director Shannon Duerr has been busy the last few weeks as she worked to find a way to make EMT training more accessible and, hopefully, easier to get those interested in becoming an EMT to volunteer.
By Melissa Anderson
“This has been a community effort to bring this training together. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of many local organizations,” Duerr said.
CCJDA contacted TrainND and Lake Region State College (LRSC) to set up and pay for the training. Next was Cavalier County Memorial Hospital (CCMH) to provide the necessary staff, staff hours, medical supplies (blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, etc), and clinicals
The Langdon ambulance is providing the ride-alongs as part of training. The NDSU Langdon Research Extension Center is providing the free use of their facility and a staff member for IVN coordination which helped to drive down the cost of the training.
The combined effort to make the EMT training easier to attain all started when Duerr was attending a meeting and met with Doug Darling, the president of Lake Region State College
“I was visiting with Doug about things that have been happening in Cavalier County. I mentioned our EMT shortage, and Doug said that they might be able to help so I gave him a call the day I got back to the office,” Duerr explained.
From there, Duerr and Darling set up a meeting with CCJDA, LRSC, TrainND, CCMH and a member of the Langdon Ambulance, and it was after that meeting that things really started to fall into place.
CCJDA has worked with LRSC and TrainND in the past on other training and was very pleased with the results. TrainND is able to customize training to their clients’ needs, and that the primary reason that makes working with them so attractive.
“We were able to work with them to customize the training so it is available locally through IVN with hands-on portions of the class also being offered locally,” Duerr stated, ”Students will not have to travel out of town except to take the final test.”
CCJDA was first made aware of the severe volunteer shortage earlier this year at their five year planning meeting. The board visited with a lot of people and found one of the major reasons for the lack of volunteers was the training. The training is expensive, extensive and often only offered out-of-town – those factors made the training a burden to anyone wanting to take it.
“We thought if we could get the training available locally and pay for the training we may be able to generate a lot of interest in the program,” Duerr explained,”When asking around, we were able to come up with a list of eight names interested in the training.”
Once the training was secured, the next task was making it more affordable for those interested to take it. Individuals can now apply to the CCJDA apply to have their training paid for.
“We want to make sure if we invest the money in someone to take the training that the community will benefit, and we will increase the number of volunteers available to take call so we will have an application process in place,” Duerr said.
The applications will be scored on factors such as: if the individual is willing to take call, how many hours of call they are willing to take, what days they are available to take call, and if they plan to live in Cavalier County following the completion of the course.
The payment for the class will be structured as a 0 percent interest, forgivable loan. Students will sign a loan contract for the amount of the class. If they complete the class and pass the test the loan payments will be deferred for one year. The class fee included the first testing fee, however, if a student does not pass the test, they can try again. The second test fee will be at their expense. If they do not complete the class, they will be required to pay back the loan.
“This gives us some assurance that we don’t invest a large amount of money into the class just to have several students drop out,” Duerr stated.
After the one year period, if the individual has taken at least 576 hours of call over the course of a year, the loan will be forgiven, and the individual will have received the training for free. However, if the individual has not taken enough call, loan payments will begin.
“If they are close to the 576 we could give them a little bit of time to reach that number, however, we prefer they get as close to that number as possible by June 30, 2018 to have their loan forgiven,” Duerr said.
The number of hours required may sound like a lot, but it is only 48 hours or two days per month. CCJDA will be using the yearly amount as they understand some months may be busier than others. The 576 hour limit is also low enough that high school students who plan to head to college in the next year may be able to take advantage of the training as well. The 576 hours could be met by taking one weekend a month of call over the course of the year.
“If they take some call the summer before they leave, the number of weekend required will be reduced even further,” Duerr added.
The first day of training will be November 15th with training continuing until April. Each class session will last about four hours and take place on weeknights. Most weeks the class will be one day a week, however, there are a few weeks where there are two days back to back, the first being a traditional classroom day and the second day being hands-on practical applications of what the students learned the day before. There will be some weeks with no classes at all. Overall, the total course of training takes only 33 days. After those days there is a Fisdap test which runs April 4 through the 9th.
“Currently there is only one weekend on the schedule, and it is the weekend right before the Fisdap to give students a chance to work with the instructor on hands-on practical applications to prepare them for the Fisdap,” Duerr said.
The Fisdap test is a comprehensive exit exam to determine if the students are ready to take the final test. According to their website, 97 percent of students who pass the Fisdap, pass the final test. Students get two attempts to pass the Fisdap. (You can learn more about the Fisdap here : www.fisdap.net/what_we_make/testing).
After the Fisdap test the instructor will have four days of hands on sessions that last for approximately four hours each day to prepare students for the final test on May 15, 2017.
In North Dakota, most EMT positions are volunteer. The positions provide invaluable services to communities such as Langdon and Cavalier County as a whole.
The current roster of volunteer EMTs comes from a wide range of professions within the community. From law enforcement to civic posts, the 10 active volunteers are making a difference to the community but over the years the number of volunteers taking calls has dwindled leaving a skeletal crew of volunteers.
“It’s fun and it’s a such a positive group to be a part of,” Langdon City Auditor and volunteer EMT RoxAnne Hoffarth said,”But we need more people to help to reduce the stress that we are under fulfilling calls.”
Anyone who is interested in taking the training should contact Shannon Duerr as soon as possible to fill out an application. If anyone would like to see the tentative schedule, they can contact Duerr for that as well at 701-256-3475.