Rio Rancho Fire Rescue cadet Dominic Arzola, center, acts like a patient with breathing issues for a drill during an emergency medical technician class at Central New Mexico Community College in Rio Rancho last week. The EMT cadets were running a mock call to try to sharpen their skills. This class of cadets has been participating a six-week course that will give them their EMT-Basic certification before they enter Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Department.
(Stephen Montoya/ Rio Rancho Observer)

Emergency medical technicians hurry to a call where a 30-year-old male has been reported to have problems breathing.

The lead EMT on scene asks a few questions to dispatch to better prepare for the call. In a matter of minutes, five EMTs have placed the man on a gurney and begun secondary medical protocols in the back of the ambulance.

What makes this scenario unique is that it all took place in a state-of-art classroom designed to better prepare EMT students for real-world calls.

This class of six students is part of an Ingenuity  program that has been set up at  Central New Mexico Community College Rio Rancho campus to help facilitate certifications for first responders entering the field. CNM also provides a full curriculum of nationally certified EMT training classes, allowing students to achieve an associate degree.

This recent class of Ingenuity program students is entering the Rio Rancho Fire Rescue team.

RRFR Deputy Chief Richard Doty said the fire department noticed it was only getting 80 to 90 applicants during its recruitment period last year.

“So we made the decision to get rid of the EMT-Basic license to help increase our applicant pool,” Doty said.

According to Doty, the six cadets in this course had to go through a 16-week fire academy, after which they had to also go through a six-week EMT-Basic course.

“With the course set up like this, we went from having 80 applicants to having 300 applicants for 10 positions,” he said. “So eliminating the license increased our applicant pool, and this style of class allows us to customize some of the training and gear it toward what we actually see in the field here in Rio Rancho.”

Jonathan Bueschel, CNM instructor and Rio Rancho Fire Rescue captain, said this class is broken into two parts, the theory portion and the lab.

“The didactic side is all theory, but the lab is what we are doing here today, which is running real-life scenarios to prepare these cadets for the real world,” Bueschel said.

Each scenario is geared to train the cadets to look at everything from airway management and cardiovascular management to anxiety and asthma and so on, he said.

“We practice a little bit of everything, plus no two scenarios are ever the same,” Bueschel said.

Each EMT may not know what is going on at first on each call, but he said protocols are set up to help them narrow down each assessment.

“These classes occur every day of the week and run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., much like a full shift,” Bueschel said. “During the time these cadets are in class, we run multiple scenarios to try and prepare them for real EMT service.”

Cadet Eric Wollman said he always wanted to be a firefighter and decide to pursue his dream after graduating from college.

“My family has been supportive of my decision, although my mom was a little nervous for me,” he said. “Plus, I have a couple of cousins that are in the fire service down in Louisiana, so I wanted to keep up that tradition.”

Wollman said the amount of training each cadet has to go through in a short amount of time makes the course difficult.

“There’s so much information being thrown at you during this course and the 16-week training we just went through, so retaining the information can be challenging,” he said.

Wollman said there is also a lot of homework to be done in the form of studying and preparing for tests.

As for the classroom setup, there are two ambulance boxes with an opening on one side so instructors can view what the cadets are doing in each scenario on each side of the room. A set of cameras has also been placed in mock rooms and in the ambulance boxes so instructors can review each scenario and critique the cadets’ performances.

The class also has several life-sized dummies, including baby-sized ones, and several gurneys. In fact, the class was just practicing how to handle child birth with a simulation dummy specifically built for that drill.

Doty said out of 300 applicants, only 10 made it through to the final class for EMT training.

“This is a tough course, and this type of training isn’t for just everyone,” Doty said. “It takes a certain mentality to make it this far.”