Emergency scenarios were being demonstrated in every corner of the upstairs classroom at Good Hope Church on Tacoma’s Eastside. One student with a large, fake belly pretended to be a pregnant woman experiencing contractions five minutes apart with an elevated blood pressure, while the instructor observed her class’s response time. Another student pretended to be unconscious while her classmates inspected her for injuries and determined how to best transport her to an ambulance. Several students practiced bandaging a peer’s leg and another secured a breathing apparatus around his friend’s mouth and nose.
This is a typical day in Tacoma Community College’s (TCC) Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program: Students take turns cycling through emergent situations, with ever-changing variables, deciding what equipment to use, what needs to prioritize, and learning best practices for evaluating and responding to crises.
TCC recently increased capacity for this entry-level, career-focused program by offering an additional EMT cohort in Tacoma’s Eastside neighborhood, in collaboration with community partners brought together by project lead Workforce Central. This cohort was designed specifically to advance equitable career outcomes in underserved areas of the community.
This program really showcases TCC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, racial diversity, and gender identities and, had we not opened another cohort, a lot of them would have been waitlisted or not enrolled at all.”
EMT students are on track to become certified Emergency Medical Technicians after just one quarter (approximately three months) of classes. After completing the program, students are prepared to take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification exam, and begin a gratifying career in the medical field.
“There’s so many things that you can do with EMT,” said Josh Wright, Director of Emergency Medical Services at TCC. “After one quarter and a professional certificate, students can get right into the workplace and grow and develop from there. After one year of service, they can go on to our paramedic program. Or I’ve had students who take the hospital pathway and have a foundation for our nursing program, our radiology program, or even get to the doctor level. This is a career where you can really create change.”
Although this career pathway is highly desirable, it is also historically inequitable. Nationally, 71 percent of EMTs and paramedics are white and 65 percent are male.
The Eastside cohort of TCC’s EMT program is dedicated to not only increasing the number of health care providers, but also increasing the diversity of the EMTs in our community.
The Emergency Medical Services team at TCC has been strategizing for years about how to address the equity gaps that exist in this field. In addition to its traditional evening/weekend class offerings, TCC has successfully implemented the Integrated Basic Education Skills and Training (I-BEST) model of instruction for EMT by offering extra academic and strategic supports for students. Now, by creating a community-based cohort in Tacoma’s Eastside which offers priority enrollment to Eastside students, the program continues to make strides in being more reflective of the community it serves.
Emily Portune and Stephanie Criess are the two female instructors team-teaching this group in a mostly male-dominated field, acting as role models for future generations of emergency responders.
“This program really showcases TCC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Portune said. “We have students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, racial diversity, and gender identities and, had we not opened another cohort, a lot of them would have been waitlisted or not enrolled at all.”
Each EMT cohort has the capacity for 18-24 new students each quarter. Qualifying applicants typically exceed capacity, so the new cohort is a welcome addition; especially for those Eastside students who have priority enrollment at the community-based location.
For more information about the EMT program and to apply for admission, visit this website.