There’s a first time for everything. But most of these 10 paramedic students were experiencing three firsts at once: leaving Texas, flying, and attending a professional conference.
The San Jacinto College Emergency Medical Services Program stood out as the only paramedic training program nationwide awarded full scholarships to the American Hospital Association’s Advancing Care Conference in Chicago this spring.
The conference invitation stemmed from students’ participation in Project Firstline, a CDC national training collaborative and conference sponsor. Since fall 2021, students had studied and practiced infection control in depth in the classroom and at clinical sites.
Now, at the conference, they were enjoying three days of intense interactive sessions with national health care leaders. Topics included managing conflict, practicing mindfulness to relieve stress and burnout, leading change in infection control, and promoting the well-being of health care workers amid the pandemic.
Paramedic student Anna Robledo was excited to attend with the rest of her “small but mighty” cohort.
“The most important thing we learned as a group is that using our voice to stand up for areas of medicine that are forgotten and at times ignored is imperative in the flow of patient care and their clinical outcomes,” Robledo said.
As the only EMS representatives at the conference, students had a captive audience with the nation’s top hospital leaders, according to Kristine Kern, EMS instructor and clinical coordinator.
“As the conference progressed, presenters sought me out to compliment our students for their thought-provoking questions, participation, excellent communication skills, and high emotional intelligence,” Kern said. “But the greatest compliment was each student was described as ‘an employee we would love to have on our team.’”
The first-time interactive conference combined in-person learning with virtual support, giving attendees the accountability and structure to make a positive impact on health care. Students focused on their Project Firstline Grant outcomes, developing several new outcomes for their success.
Kern credits the conference with helping students kick off their health care careers — from networking and presenting themselves professionally to recognizing their ability to make a difference.
“I’m incredibly proud of our paramedic students,” Kern said. “They are all poised for a successful career in EMS and will no doubt rise to leadership roles. I can only hope if I ever require EMS assistance that I will look up and see one of our graduates.”
For Robledo, the conference and her San Jac training have prepared her for her next steps — expanding her work at La Porte EMS and applying for an emergency health science bachelor’s program at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
“San Jacinto is a college that embodies everything I stand for: providing opportunity,” Robledo said.
Learn more about the North Campus program at sanjac.edu/program/emergency-medical-services.