Ambulance simulator gives EMT students a distinct advantage

Swan Falls High School seniors and juniors are getting a realistic idea of how to save lives in a fast-moving ambulance — performing CPR, deploying a defibrillator and administering oxygen.

Last month, the school’s health science department added a hands-on learning simulator to help EMT students learn marketable skills.

A 2023 Leading Idaho Grant paid $80,000 for the new emergency response simulator, which looks similar to the back of an ambulance, minus wheels and the driver’s cab. This year, the grant funded just under $4 million worth of career technical education (CTE) equipment in Idaho school districts for various programs like welding, construction, agriculture and diesel technology.

Members of the Kuna fire department recently tested out the simulator while its hydraulics produced the bumps and swaying motions of driving, and they said it was almost like the real thing — “just like riding down Hubbard Road,” recalled Jessica Anno, an EMT instructor.

The school offers four health science CTE pathways: EMT, sports medicine, certified nursing assistant and dental assistant; job certifications are available in all of them except sports medicine.

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Students who complete one of the CTE pathways and choose to join the workforce earn between $16 – $20 an hour as a certified EMT, CNA or dental assistant. In total, 325 students in grades 9-12 are in health science classes, with two full-time and two part-time teachers.

“We have several students that are employed right out of high school, and several students that are finishing bachelor’s degrees in two and three years because of the level of content they were able to receive here,” Anno said. “So I think the thing that I’m most proud of is the expectation that we create here for students to become employable citizens.”

Kuna School District divides its CTE programs between Kuna and Swan Falls high schools. Construction trades, automotive mechanics, diesel mechanics and health sciences are housed at Swan Falls, while agriculture, business, engineering and technology, family and consumer science, and Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps are at Kuna.

District coordinator Stuart Vickers said, “CTE programs help our students see, and work towards a clear and direct pathway to a lifelong profession. It creates a direct line from students to college and career choices.”

Swan Falls’ state-of-the-art CTE-focused high school complex draws statewide attention. In February, Gov. Brad Little used Swan Falls as his backdrop to promote his new Idaho Launch program; the complex also attracts visitors from other school districts as well as industry specialists, who help students gain the skills they need to become future employees at Idaho companies.

For example, Kuna has partnerships with companies like Western States Caterpillar, META, Hensel Phelps, Summit Walls Systems and Corey Barton Homes.

“Students benefit primarily because of our connections with industry leaders through our technical advisory committees” that guide and direct our curriculum and keep CTE programs up to date with the latest advances and the current job market and employment needs, Vickers explained. 

Students in the health sciences work with equipment identical to what is found in dentists’ offices. And their on-the-job experience extends outside the classroom because of clinical requirements: sports medicine students shadow professionals at sporting events; CNAs work in health care facilities; dental students work in a professional office environment; and EMTs ride along with ambulance services.

CTE students leave with quality skills that provide “distinct advantages” in the workforce, said Michelle Graves, the school’s lead health science teacher.

“There’s a big push in Idaho for career technical education. So you’ll see more and more of these types of schools,” Anno said. “We’re not definitely not the first, but we definitely have one of the nicest facilities.”

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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