FVCC classes provide hands-on experience

By on February 12, 2010

by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—Kaneland High School senior Kyle Straughn did not intend to become a firefighter. A couple of people he knew worked for the Maple Park Fire Department, and he began working there in 2008 as a part-time cadet on the weekends.

He signed up for the fire science class at the Fox Valley Career Center in his junior year, and his initial curiosity turned into a career opportunity. Although he learns a lot in his job with the Fire District, he said the class at the Career Center provides more in-depth training in fire fighting techniques.

Carrying and raising ladders, performing forced entry, employing search-and-rescue techniques, working with ventilation tools and practicing hose evolutions are just a few of the skills that Straughn has learned in the class.

Sugar Grove firefighter Gary Baum heads up the program at the Career Center.

Currently in his second year of the class, Straughn has taken on leadership roles during drills, gaining valuable experience in taking command and communicating effectively with his teammates.

“I’m really glad I took the class; it’s the best class ever,” he said. “It involves helping people.

This year, he also began taking the Career Center’s newly-formed Emergency Medical Services (EMS) class. He said he was glad to have the opportunity to take both classes during high school.

“As long as this is what you want to do, it’s a good time to do it,” he said.

Straughn receives dual credit for the fire science class with Kaneland High School and Waubonsee Community College. By the time he graduates high school, he said he will have 29 credits in fire science, and will be halfway to his associate’s degree.

The EMS class prepares him to become an emergency medical technician at the basic level (EMTB). When he completes the class, he will be eligible to take the state of Illinois EMT basic exam.

“You learn a lot about how to take care of someone properly and to keep yourself safe,” he said of the EMS class.

Straughn said taking both classes makes a lot of sense, because so many of the calls the Fire District receives are for medical emergencies. He said that he will most likely become a paramedic, as most fire departments require their employees to obtain that level of training.

The EMS class is new to the Fox Valley Career Center this year. Janelle McCornack, who also teaches a similar class at Waubonsee Community College, is the instructor. She has been a firefighter and an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the Sugar Grove Fire District since 2001.

“This (class) is the funnest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “These kids are so open; they really get excited and they think completely out of the box. It’s not like any other high school class they’ve ever taken.”

The class, similar to the fire science class, gives students an opportunity to practice hands-on skills, she said. It gives them an idea if this is something they want to do for a career.

Students learn to provide pre-hospital care for patients with a variety of medical complaints, including heart attacks, strokes and diabetic emergencies, as well as trauma patients with any type of injury. Among other skills, they learn to prepare patients with a possible spinal injury for transport, administer medications, control bleeding and administer CPR and artificial ventilation.

Kelly Walsh, the EMS Coordinator for the Sugar Grove Fire Department, helps teach the students how to conduct medical assessments. During a recent class, she gave the class a scenario, a 911 call from a 54-year-old man with abdominal pain.

The students had to talk to the patient, determine what was wrong and provide the appropriate care, Walsh said.

“Each patient you care for will teach you something,” McCornack said. “Slow down and listen to them. The best thing you can do is listen to the patient.”

During the scenario, the teachers simulated a heart attack, and the students had to do CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to care for the patient.

In March, the students will participate in 12 hours of clinical time in the emergency room at an area hospital. There are a few students in the class who want to go into pre-medicine, medical school or nursing.

“This gives them a huge head start,” McCornack said.

Feb. 25, 2010 Update: In a story on page 3B of the Feb. 11 edition of the Elburn Herald, “FVCC classes provide hands-on experience,” Kaneland High School senior Kyle Straughn’s name was spelled incorrectly. It has been fixed in this article.
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