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Trauma tech. class offers hands-on learning
Ketchikan High School students practice taking blood pressure and taking a pulse on each other Wednesday at the school. From left, Marcus Lee takes a blood pressure reading of Molly O’Brien, center, while Ellowyn Beimler takes O’Brien’s pulse. Raevyn Goodson watches in the background. Also participating is McKenzie Thomas, not pictured. Photo by Hall Anderson

Daily News Staff Writer

A somewhat new class offered at Ketchikan High School gives students the opportunity to graduate high school with three college credits and a certification in the field of medicine.  

The emergency trauma technician class, now in its second year, teaches students what to do when arriving at an emergency scene and how to provide basic life support. The class was formerly taught by Lori Richmond, a paramedic who works for Guardian Flight and a certified instructor for ETT; and is now taught by Ketchikan firefighter Frank Divelbiss.

To be in the class, students have to be a junior or a senior, and they must be in the medical terminology class with Kayhi teacher Zara Nesbitt. Once enrolled, the students are able to choose either an EMT path, or that of a phlebotomist technician — someone who draws blood.

This year’s ETT class began, which began in October, currently has five students: Seniors, McKenzie Thomas and Ellowyn Beimler; and juniors, Marcus Lee, Raevyn Goodson and Molly O’Brien.

The students are already certified in basic life support, and have almost completed with their ETT training that allows them to do ride-alongs in an ambulance. It also gives them the chance to become a cadet at one of the fire departments in Ketchikan.

The ETT course is the first level of EMS training in the state of Alaska. According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health, the course was first developed in Southeast Alaska for use in logging camps.

“The reason the ETT was started is a lot of remote places in Alaska don’t have enough people for there to be an actual EMT there,” Beimler explained. She added the ETT course is a shorter class that focuses on keeping someone alive while transporting them to a hospital.

Since the students are able to obtain their ETT certification while still in high school, if they have a serious interest in pursuing a career in the medical field, the training allows them to work in the field while attending college or receiving additional EMT or other medical training.

“I don’t necessarily want to work in an ambulance, I want to be a doctor,” Thomas said. “But it’s a good starting point to know about stuff before going into school.”

Beimler said she’s thinking about being a certified ETT instructor and teaching the class. She added it’s a good stepping stone if they’re going to apply to medical school, as they’ve now had experience working with patients, in a hospital and in an ambulance.

“I know now how to do CPR,” Beimler said. “I know how to do minor wound treatment and I know how to check all of these things, like my patient and the last thing they ate.”

Lee said most of them are definitely considering an EMT career path because there are so many different opportunities and positions available within the discipline. For example, a former student in the class, Zach Sivertsen, is now a firefighter and EMT at the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department.

Sivertsen knew before he took the class that he wanted to be a firefighter, so the class gave him a running start towards his career. After graduating from Kayhi last year, he participated in the South Tongass cadet program.

He then headed to the Kilgore College Fire Academy in Texas, where he obtained his firefighter one and two certifications, as well as his hazmat awareness and operations certification.

Sivertsen said the ETT class at Kayhi is true to being in the field, because the instructor follows the state curriculum — but also gives real world knowledge that can’t be found in a textbook. He said the best part about the class was the hands-on practice.

“We would practice doing scenarios, essentially, on each other,” Sivertsen said. “We could make up the scenario and we would just run each other through scenarios that we would make up ourselves.”

On Wednesday last week, the five students took to a hallway at Kayhi with a bag of medical gear to practice some of those scenarios.

“She has an open wound at the femur,” Thomas said, calling out O’Brien’s fake injuries, “and all of her fingers are broken.”

First, the students checked the scene to see if they needed any backup. Then, they assessed the patient’s airway, breathing and circulation.

The students explained that if any of those are obstructed, they would temporarily help the problem, but they wouldn’t be able to fix it completely.

Beimler did a head-to-toe examination of O’Brien — who was laying on the floor — while asking her if she could wiggle her toes, move her hands and make a fist. Lee then used a sphygmomanometer to take her blood pressure. In a normal situation, O’Brien would likely be transported to the hospital after being assessed.

“Good luck,” a teacher said to O’Brien as he walked by, “I hope you make it.”

Learning how to provide basic life support like this hasn’t been the only advantage of the ETT course. Some of the students seemed to have reaped other benefits, as well.

“I like coming out of the ambulance when we’re done because we look super cool,” Thomas said.