If you see a red and blue ambulance circling the parking lot at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle, don’t be concerned that the driver has lost his way. More than likely Chris Jackson, CMC’s full-time lead faculty in the college’s emergency medical services program, is behind the wheel, and in the back of the ambulance are EMS students getting a firsthand feel for what it’s like to treat patients in a moving emergency vehicle.
The ambulance is a used vehicle, but it’s a brand new teaching addition to CMC’s EMS program and will be used at the college’s locations in Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
“There’s not a whole lot of room in the back of an ambulance,” said Tim Lavin, a lieutenant with Colorado River Fire Rescue, the organization that donated the vehicle to CMC. “You have to learn how to move around. And starting an IV is very challenging.”
Jackson agreed with Lavin that the learning experiences in what is being called the new EMS Mobile Classroom are invaluable.
“It’s so beneficial to understand what it’s like to work inside a moving ambulance,” Jackson said. “The comfort level goes way up [for the EMS students], and that means they have one less thing to stress about.”
Gift supports one of college’s most in-demand programs
About 20 people gathered for a brief ceremony in late May outside the Rifle campus to acknowledge Colorado River Fire Rescue’s mobile gift – equal to about $10,000 – and to poke around inside the ambulance, checking out the mannequin and admiring the new graphics on the outside of the vehicle.
For Dr. Renee Kuharski, assistant vice president of career and technical education for CMC, the ambulance will be well used in the college’s emergency medical services instruction.
“The EMS program has more graduates than any other program our college offers,” she said.
That was apparent at the dedication, where a group of Colorado River Fire Rescue firefighter/EMTs attended; virtually all of them had graduated from CMC’s EMS program. At the college’s 11 locations combined, nearly 300 students graduate each year with basic, intermediate or paramedic EMS certification.
Part of the reason the courses are so popular is that the nature of emergency services has changed. Jackson said fire departments now conduct more emergency medical services than fire mitigation.
Fifty years ago, he said, there were a lot more fires. But because of fire codes and increased use of fire-retardant building materials, the incidence of fire has decreased while emergency care has risen. Today, according to Jackson, 88 percent of calls answered by fire departments are for emergency care, leaving just 12 percent to fire incidents.
Watch for CMC’s EMS Mobile Classroom at the upcoming Strawberry Days parade on June 21 on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs.