Paonia resident Steve Simpson will soon be one of a handful of North Fork Ambulance crew members to be certified as an Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate.
Simpson originally joined NFA in 1995, then later worked full time for the Delta County Ambulance District (DCAD) before going to work at the coal mines. With mine work slowing down, he decided to return to NFA. This time around, he said, he served for a year as an EMT and drove ambulance while earning his certification.
It's working out well. Simpson, one of about 50 ambulance crew members, currently serves as captain of the Paonia station. He and fellow NFA crew member Deb Leger, a six-year NFA veteran, recently began studying for their intermediate certification at Delta-Montrose Technical College.
"It's a very well-done class," said Simpson, and is being taught mostly by paramedics with DCAD, including lead instructor Charles Hufman, and NFA crew member and DCAD manager, Kirby Clock.
Using a $3,200 donation from Rotary Club of the North Fork as matching funds, NFA applied for and received a Colorado Resource for EMS and Trauma Education (CREATE) grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health, which will fund both Simpson's and Leger's classes.
Simpson said he was planning to take the course anyway, and was very happy to hear about the funding. It helps a lot, said Simpson. "Those classes aren't cheap."
In presenting the check to executive director Kathy Steckel at the NFA annual board meeting Saturday at Hotchkiss Memorial Hall, Rotary president Marsha Grant explained that the money came from a rainy day fund. Members "decided it's raining" and wanted to put the money to work. The day they voted on how to use the money, Steckel was the club's guest speaker. "Timing is everything," said Grant, and members voted to fund the EMT-I training.
The North Fork area needs as many EMT-Is as it can get, said Simpson. The NFA is working to provide round-the-clock advanced life support services for all three of its stations, including Crawford and Hotchkiss.
"It'll be good for the people up here," said Simpson. The certification "will give us advanced-level care for the North Fork that we've needed for quite a long time," including better cardiac care, and the ability to administer life-saving drugs in a more timely manner. Currently, ambulances must connect with a DCAD ambulance between Hotchkiss and Delta before advanced life support can be administered. "It'll be 20-25 minutes faster, which is a big difference," said Simpson. "We're looking forward to it."
In all, the class will take about six months, followed by testing. The classroom portion of the training ends in early July. Much of the clinical portion of the class, which requires working in hospital emergency room settings, learning obstetrics and other hands-on learning, as well as logging additional time on the ambulance, will be completed with the DCAD.
Simpson said that while he looks forward to completing class, "the continuing education never ends." Monthly classes help keep EMTs up on the latest technology and techniques, and members often attend emergency management services conferences and other events.
Simpson said anyone considering becoming an EMT is invited to "come and talk to us." The NFA website, www.northforkambulance.com, gives contact information as well as other facts about the nonprofit organization, which began in 1969. Prospects can take a ride, meet other members, and decide if it's for them.