From left, San Jacinto College EMT students Ruben Salinas, Marisol Escobar, and Michelle Kindle learn about providing medical care under fire during a simulated training exercise at a local paintball range. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing department.
San Jacinto College students hit the ‘battlefield’ to learn about tactical EMT work
Simulated combat scenario stresses teamwork, working under pressure
Rob Vanya, December 5, 2012
HOUSTON – Crawling on your belly, trying to apply a tourniquet to a wounded comrade while bullets are zinging past you is not your typical classroom exercise. But San Jacinto College Emergency Medical Technology (EMT) students were not expecting anything typical when they entered the field of battle on a recent Saturday to find out what it's like to provide medical care under fire.
The bullets were not real (they were paintball pellets), and the field of battle was also simulated (it was a paintball range). Nevertheless, the intensity of the fighting and the feel of danger provided a true-to-life experience.
“It got sort of scary out there at times,” commented San Jacinto College student Michelle Kindel as she took a break from the action. “It was life-like enough to let me know that I do not think I am really cut out for tactical type of EMT work.”
The San Jacinto College North EMT program rented a local paintball range recently for a few hours to stage a simulated training scenario so that students could learn about a tactical type of EMS work known as “care under fire,” which deals with moving a patient quickly and safely from a danger zone to a safe area where medics can provide care. In the scenario, each student tactical team had a designated “wounded” member. Their objective was to move the casualty while under (paintball) fire to a protected area, and then provide medical care for the patient, and finally to move the patient out of the danger zone.
The student teams also participated in combined drills that pitted students against San Jacinto College EMT instructors. “I’m happy to report that we tied 1 to 1 in the combined drills,” commented Ali Shah, San Jacinto College EMT instructor.
Shah, who is a U.S. Army veteran, explained that the paintball range project came about as EMT instructors were discussing ways to provide true-to-life training for students. “We did some hands-on communications exercises, and we had Harris County HAZMAT workers visit us to provide some hazardous materials drills, but for tactical EMS we couldn’t really think of a realistic simulation,” he remarked. “That’s when the idea to stage a scenario at a paintball range came to light. The exercise could give students a little insight and a slight taste of what it’s like to perform care in a tactical or battlefield setting. The goal was not to make them combat medics, rather just provide a realistic experience of what that profession is like.”
The exercise also provided a secondary objective of fostering teamwork and communication, while also exposing students to an environment that involves more stress than controlled classroom simulations. EMT workers involved in intense tactical care generally include military medics, as well as emergency medics who help SWAT teams during hostile situations.
For San Jacinto College EMT student Edward Hines, the paintball range exercise was truly a defining moment. “This particular exercise had a huge impact on me,” Hines commented. “I was already interested in tactical EMT work, but after the paintball range project, I made up my mind that this is the field I am going to pursue. It’s exciting. I love it.”
After earning an EMT degree from San Jacinto College, Hines plans to join the U.S. Army with a goal of becoming a combat medic. “Enlisting in the Army will help me reach my goals as a paramedic, and I’ve always wanted to serve my country,” Hines remarked.
Hines is attracted to EMT work because he loves to help people, and he is especially attracted to helping people in critical and challenging situations. “You would think that it takes courage and bravery to get into the tactical area of EMT work, but I do not consider myself to be extra brave,” he commented. “I have fear just like anybody. But working under pressure, I know I could push myself to go on and provide medical care even if it would involve dodging bullets. You have to do your job in spite of your fears.”
San Jacinto College offers a wide range of EMT degree plans and courses at the North and Central campuses. For more information, please visit www.sanjac.edu/areas-study#emergency-medical-technology.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
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