Health & Fitness

Treating patients sooner: EMTs, often first at the scene, to provide more services

A new state mandate requires emergency medical technicians to receive advanced training that brings them closer to the skill level of paramedics.

The training will enable California EMTs to administer and use naloxone, epinephrine and a glucometer, according to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.

Naloxone, or Narcan as it is commonly referred to, is administered to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. Epinephrine is used in cases of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction. A glucometer measures blood sugar.

Previously, EMTs in California could receive this kind of training, but it was not required by the state. The new requirement was introduced in 2017 by the Legislature, and each local EMS authority (LEMSA) in the state had to develop a curriculum that local providers then introduced to their EMTs. The training must be done by July 1 if an EMT wants to be certified.

Jim Whitworth from the Mountain Valley EMS Agency, the LEMSA for Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa and Stanislaus counties, said the new training is beneficial to the EMTs.

“We have some very, very well-trained EMTs, and I think this allows them to be more than just a driver,” Whitworth said. “This will allow them to be more interactive with the patient and more interactive with their paramedic partner.”

Every ambulance in the Mountain Valley EMS Agency system is staffed with paramedics already trained in the skills, Whitworth said. However, many of the five counties’ fire engines, which often are the first to arrive on incident scenes, have only EMTs.

“It’s just an added measure for systems that may have just (basic life support) responders or might have an extended response time for ambulances,” Whitworth said.

The Modesto Fire Department is working to train its EMTs with six total new skills: administration and use of Narcan, epinephrine and glucometers, as well as aspirin, CPAP and the I-Gel advanced airway device. Though the state requires only three of such skills, the Mountain Valley EMS Agency is opening the option for providers to train their EMTs on additional skills as they see fit.

“Our crews will be able to utilize these skill sets and begin that process of treating the patient sooner,” MFD Division Chief Tim Tietjen said.

Because MFD has four out of 11 stations with advanced life support (ALS) trained crews with the six skills already under their belt, the new skills are being taught to crews from the remaining stations with BLS trained crews. Each crew has three different training sessions for two hours each while they are on duty.

The cost of the new training is an estimated $41 per trainee, said Jennifer Lim of the California EMS Authority.

Because the Modesto Fire EMTs are trained during their on-duty hours, Tietjen said, it is tough to calculate the actual cost to the department. MFD also has not been stocked with the added materials yet, which will add costs.

But Tietjen said the cost may save lives. “It’s a great thing,” he said. “Anytime we can expand the level of service we can give to our community, the better we serve the community.”

Mackenzie Shuman is a summer news intern for The Modesto Bee. She originally hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado, but goes to school at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication where she is studying Journalism with a minor in Political Science.
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