BEMIDJI – Sanford Health Emergency Medical Services Education has received a third-year grant that will provide full scholarships to those who enroll in its Rural Emergency Medical Technician course.
Received through the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the grant is for people living in rural areas of Sanford sites and will provide training on important issues in EMS.
“The purpose of the grant is to assist in the recruitment of paramedics in rural areas while addressing mental health and addictions,” a statement on the grant said.
The grant will provide full scholarships to those who enroll in Sanford Health’s rural EMT course which begins August 23.
Much of the course will take place virtually – all students need is internet access for online lectures and the ability to travel to one of the course locations to complete in-person skills labs.
Course locations in Minnesota include Bemidji, Bagley, Luverne, and Thief River Falls.
The course, which lasts approximately one semester, requires students to be available two evenings a week for an online lecture and an in-person skills lab. During the course, students will also participate in ambulance rides to gain hands-on experience in the field.
For Jamie Jacobson, manager of EMS operations at Sanford Ambulance in Thief River Falls and Bagley, the goal of the grant is to increase EMS presence in less populated areas.
“There has been a need for more EMS people in rural areas,” Jacobson said. “The idea is that if we have more paramedics in rural areas, they could help relieve other EMS and help more people.”
While EMT courses can often cost $1,000 or more, the grant offers scholarships that cover tuition and books, meaning students will only need to cover incidental costs such as travel, Internet access and required vaccinations.
“Everything is free – the books, the class itself, the uniforms,” Jacobson said of the course. “Everything pays off.”
Students don’t need any prior experience in the medical field to enroll in the course, Jacobson said. Everything a prospective EMT will need to know will be taught in the course.
“It’s for anyone who doesn’t have a current license,” Jacobson said. “It’s for new people who want to get into EMS, or people who were doing it before and now (their license is) expired and they want to come back.”
While students can expect to learn basic paramedic duties during the course, there will also be a focus on mental health and addictions issues that paramedics might encounter on the job.
“These courses focus on both patient care of people with mental health issues, but also how the provider can manage their own mental health in the very stressful world of EMS responses, especially in areas rural areas,” the grant release reads. “This year, the grant is also focusing on training in overdose complications and the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.”
For Jacobson, mental health training is becoming increasingly important for paramedics because it teaches them to be more sensitive and understanding.
“With EMS, you’re dealing with a lot of calls that are sometimes very emotional, so it can really impact someone,” Jacobson said. “We want to make sure EMS people are treated for mental health and raise awareness about how EMS treats people who have mental health issues or behavioral health issues.”
After completing the course, students will take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians test – those who pass will be certified to work as an EMT in any state in the United States.
Paramedics looking to advance their careers after the course have many options, Jacobson said. Sanford Ambulance offers its EMTs full scholarships to paramedic school, where EMTs can branch out and become flight physicians, nurses, physician assistants, or physicians.
The deadline to apply for a scholarship is July 15, with award notifications due to begin the week of August 1.
To learn more or apply, visit www.sanfordhealthemseducation.org/ruralemt.