MountainView Hospital - November 10, 2023
by Jennifer McDonnell

During a recent school day, instructor Mark Calabrese is quizzing students at Amplus Academy, a public charter school, about field assessments and what they should do.

“If you go to a call and they are complaining about their toe, are you going to check their pupils,” he said to the class, in his ask and open answer style.

The class debated back and forth before moving on to other triage topics.

This class isn’t a typical health class. It’s the school’s EMT program, set up so that high school seniors who successfully complete the class and the national exam graduate as EMTs.

The program grew out of the growing need for first responders in Las Vegas and across the nation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of EMTs and paramedics is projected to grow 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. There are about 18,100 openings for EMTs and paramedics each year, on average, according to Bureau data. Many communities around the country have sited an EMT shortage, resulting in some cases, longer response times by EMS.

To help achieve that goal on increasing the EMT pipeline for communities, as well as give students a pathway to careers post high school graduation, MountainView Hospital partnered with Amplus Academy to provide an EMT program that enables participating students to graduate with an EMT license, after passing national exams.

The hospital’s successful Paramedic Institute provided a structure and framework to train students as EMTs as their first step into healthcare.

The EMT program at Amplus is in its second year and has 18 students enrolled. The class is taught by Calabrese, an instructor with the MountainView Hospital Paramedic Program and Vice President of Operations for Community Ambulance. Students meet daily for a class and lab. The school is a certified EMT site by the Health Department.

Currently the class is available to seniors who have successfully completed prerequisites for the program.

Ryan M., a 17-year-old senior at Amplus Academy, enrolled in the EMT program said he wanted to join the class because he felt like it gave him career options. Ryan, who has attended Amplus since he was in 4th grade, said he is interested in health sciences and would like to work as an EMT post-graduation to help fund college.

“I think the class is really cool,” he said. “My favorite part is the Saturday labs.”

The class is no small commitment, with student meeting two Saturdays a month for six hours each session. Saturday classes are held at Community Ambulance headquarters in Henderson, where students get hands-on training from experienced EMTs and Paramedics.

Calabrese said the program is not only about training the next generation of EMTs for the community, but preparing the students to become young adults post high school graduation.

“Many of these students may not go into healthcare, but this class will have meaning for them for their entire lives,” Calabrese said. “These skills will add value to them and gives them exposure to other things they may not have the opportunity to experience.

“For me, it’s all about prepping them to leave high school.”

Calabrese said in addition to the clinical aspect, he encourages students to present in front of the class, which he says helps them build not just their speaking skills, but their self-esteem.

Lisa Cates, assistant principal at Amplus Academy, said the EMT program has been a big hit among its students and a draw for new students in the community, who want to join specifically for the program.

“It is a big commitment for these students,” Cates said, adding that perquisites include anatomy or health sciences. “Additionally we offer them a week-long summer course just to give them boost.”

Amplus senior Tinbite A., 17, said she is very interested in the medical field and would like to be an anesthesiologist.

“I plan on working as an EMT throughout college and in the summer,” she said. “It will help building my education and confidence and learn more in the field.”

MountainView Hospital is committed to healthcare education in the community, providing Graduate Medical Education, Pharmacy residencies and nursing residencies.

MountainView’s Paramedic Institute, launched in 2020 in order to facilitate the growth and education of paramedic students in the community. The 57-week program involves a stringent didactic regimen, skills practice lab, and hands-on clinical immersion.

‌‌MountainView partnered with nine local Fire Departments and private EMS agencies in creation of the program. Students attending the institute are sponsored by each agency. The current 4th cohort is the institute’s largest thus far with 60 students.

“The Las Vegas valley, much like the rest of the nation, is experiencing a Paramedic/EMS provider shortage,” said Susie Kochevar, MSN, Paramedic Institute Lead Paramedic Educator. “This has been exasperated by an aging workforce, COVID-19 and overall decline in interest in the paramedic profession.”

MountainView is currently the only hospital in Las Vegas as well as the HCA Healthcare enterprise to offer an extensive educational and training program for prehospital professionals. An EMT program seemed like a natural part of the growth of the healthcare education and training programs provided to the community, said Troy Tuke, Paramedic Institute director.

“It’s 100 percent the goal to grow the next generation of EMTs,” Tuke said. “EMTs in our community are the frontline of care for many. It also is an entry point to a multitude of careers in healthcare and EMS services.”

For senior Eyerusalem, 17, the EMT class is what she hopes is the start of a long medical career.

“I joined the EMT class for insight into medical careers and occupations for when I grow up,” she said. “I plan on going to college and then medical school; I want to be a surgeon.”

Cates, Amplus’ assistant principal, said they will continue to learn from each year and grow the program for future students.

“Our favorite thing about a program like this is when students graduate, they are ready to enter the workforce, or have a part-time job if they pursue college,” she said. “Our job is to prepare them for life, not just a high school diploma.”