(DR. BONES SAYS: From time to time, we receive submissions from promising writers in the field of medical preparedness. Today, we have a excellent article on getting quality medical training from Kyle Williams, a certified flight nurse and paramedic. We thank him for his contribution.)
If you are reading this article, chances are that you have already taken a basic first aid and CPR course (if not, you had better get a move on). Have you thought about getting more advanced medical training? You may think it cost too much money and takes a lot of time. In this article you will see how nothing could not be farther from the truth. High quality, free or low cost medical training is available at every level from first aid up to EMT-Paramedic and beyond. As for the time factor, in most places classes are designed for the person who works a full-time job and wants to take these classes on the weekends or evenings. You just have to know where to look.
My initial first aid and CPR class was provided free by the Boy Scouts. That was soon followed by an advanced first aid class provided for free by my Red Cross Explorer post. A few years after that, as a junior in high school, I took my first basic emergency medical technician (EMT-B) class for $150.00 (including the book). I became an EMT-Intermediate a year and a half later, which was completely paid for by my local volunteer ambulance corps in return for volunteering one six-hour shift a week (although I usually did more because I absolutely fell in love with it). A year later I took the EMT-Critical Care course, you guessed it, for free because I continued to volunteer six hours a week at the ambulance. Before long I became an EMT-Paramedic, again completely paid for by the volunteer ambulance. Today, even the basic EMT course would be paid for by the ambulance because you can join as a driver while you take the class. Over the years I have paid for very little of my healthcare education, either because I was involved with the local volunteer ambulance or the volunteer fire department, both of which pay for as much education as a person can soak up. There are plenty of ways to get your training paid for if you know where to find it.
There are many ways to get quality free or inexpensive medical training. In my experience, the best way is to join a community organization like a volunteer fire department or ambulance service. Do you live in a district that doesn’t have a volunteer service? Well, don’t worry, few agencies today require that you live in their primary district. Most only require that you live in an adjoining district or within a reasonable distance. Unfortunately, volunteerism today isn’t what it was 20 years ago, so most agencies take people from wherever they can. Once you belong to a one of these community first response agencies, the amount of free or low cost training you can get is almost unlimited.
(DR. BONES SAYS: Kyle is dead on when he says that volunteerism is at low ebb. Giving a little time to your community is rewarding on many levels; you will find that you’ll make relationships that will last a lifetime. To be an effective survival medic, you need to nurture the volunteer within)
In addition to the different levels of EMT courses I have taken for free, I have taken hundreds of continuing medical education (CME) courses that have been paid for and/or provided by these volunteer agencies or numerous government agencies. I have taken several week long advanced training courses at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, AL. These were some of the best courses I have ever taken and they are open to anyone involved in emergency services. For courses at this particular training center, the Federal government flies you down to Alabama, houses you, feeds you (Oh boy, do they feed you!), trains you, and flies you back home all for free. There are several other State and Federal training centers throughout the nation that provide these top notch training courses at no cost to participants, with each center specializing in specific topics. In addition to the numerous provider training courses, I have been through several instructor level courses and have been teaching for several years.
So where do you go to find this free training? My first recommendation is to contact your local volunteer fire department or ambulance service. Today most agencies in such dire need of help that at first sight they will get you signed up into their organization and then walk you through the process of get you enrolled in training classes. If there isn’t a volunteer agency in your town, seek out organizations in other towns. If you are still having trouble finding an organization, contact your state EMS agency or fire service office; they will be able to guide you to an appropriate agency.
If you’re not ready to run into burning buildings or provide direct patient care, don’t worry, not everyone in the fire department runs into the burning buildings or drives the big red trucks (BRT) (but why would anyone not want to drive the BRT?). And not every member of a volunteer ambulance service is an EMT or paramedic. These agencies need support personnel just as much. In the fire department, not everyone is an interior fire fighter, you can be an exterior fire fighter or scene support personnel. Not ready for that, how about fire police? Ambulance services need dispatchers and drivers too. It’s just fine to get your feet wet before you jump into the pool. Fire and EMS not your thing? Consider volunteering with your local Red Cross or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
This article has focused on how to get free medical training, but don’t misunderstand me, that’s not why I got into emergency services and it has nothing to do with why I still do it. It’s really about supporting and giving back to my community. I have made lifelong friendships through the fire and EMS service; in fact, I met my wife because of the fire department (we were introduced to each other by another member of the department). I have gone on to a career in critical care and flight nursing that stemmed out of my love of EMS. When it all comes down to it though, it all comes back to neighbor helping neighbor. Everything else is just an added bonus.
One last note – If you are going to go through the trouble of taking these classes, plan on joining an agency. First and foremost, it is a chance to give back to your community. Second, even the best classroom education, whether it be a basic EMT course or medical school, only provides you with a base of knowledge from which we need to learn how to implement through practical experience and guidance.
(DR. BONES SAYS: Take note that Kyle William’s amazing journey to becoming a top level medical resource began with joining the Boy Scouts, which provides excellent first aid training at a young age. If you have kids, my highest recommendation is to get them to join Boy or Girl Scouts.)