Gadsden State’s Emergency Medical Services Program Celebrates 45th Year
After being among the first to complete EMS training at Gadsden State, from left, Jerry Payne, Mike Thornton and Jim Garrard worked for the Gadsden Fire Department.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Gadsden State Community College Emergency Medical Services program. The program began in 1972 at the Holy Name of Jesus Hospital, now Riverview Regional Medical Center.
The EMS program moved to Gadsden State in 1977, and by 1979, it received official designation as one of the six licensed EMS programs in the state of Alabama.
“I believe this shows how strong our program truly is,” said John Hollingsworth, director of the EMS program at Gadsden State. “We are a part of the foundation of the community.”
Gadsden State was the first EMS program in the state to apply for accreditation, and now holds an EMT and Advanced EMT license program along with an EMS associate degree.
“Students can be working in the field after one semester of EMS training,” said Hollingsworth. “You can factually say that Gadsden State has saved people’s lives.”
In 1980, the College expanded paramedic training to the McClellan Center, approximately 30 miles from Gadsden. Gregg Jackson began his career as a student in basic EMS training in 1979 at Gadsden State. Today, he is an adjunct educator for Gadsden State EMS and the training officer for the Gadsden Fire Department.
“This program has evolved tremendously,” said Jackson. “When we started this program there weren’t CAT scans, MRIs or even cell phones. Those things have helped us.”
Jackson credits his instructors at Gadsden State for his success throughout his career. “Beverly Hill was the first director of the EMS program at Gadsden State,” said Jackson. “Her passion for EMS was obvious and it definitely rubbed off on me.”
The EMS program hosts between 180-200 students each year at the East Broad Campus.
“I have had students use their EMS training in many different ways,” said Hollingsworth. “Some students are successful EMTs, while others go on to nursing school or even medical school.”
David Osborne, left, and Jim Garrard practice what they learned during the early days of the EMS Program at Gadsden State Community College.
The EMS program’s mission is to provide quality educational courses consistent with requirements set forth by a credentialing agency to practice pre-hospital medicine in conjunction with medical control. The EMS program shall provide the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes consistent with the expectations of the public and the profession.
“The cool thing about EMS is we evaluate patients and make decisions right there on their treatment,” said Hollingsworth.
The field of EMS is growing, and both Hollingsworth and Jackson agree that public education of EMS is an important next step.
“I hope more people can learn the symptoms of heart attacks and to pull over when an ambulance is near them,” Hollingsworth said. “These small steps make a big difference in the lives of EMS providers and the public.”
The EMS program is a combination of knowledge and skills and requires a lot of practice, Jackson said. Students must complete a skills portfolio complete with 35 skills along with clinical hours where the students gain hands-on experience.
“Students leave the EMS program with skills to work with fire departments, ambulance services, volunteer fire departments and so much more,” he said. “It is important that they have a well-rounded EMS education.”
The flexibility of the EMS curriculum allows students to enter the program at any of the three levels, depending on prior experiences and education. Because the classes usually meet in the evenings, students may continue working while taking courses. In addition, clinical education experiences are usually customized for each student’s schedule.
“Gadsden State is committed to ensure that we put quality EMTs and paramedics in the field,” said Jackson.
For more information, visit www.gadsdenstate.edu or call Hollingsworth at 256-549-8654.