Joe Wyatt
Published January 29, 2018

Amarillo College is committed to aligning its degree and certificate programs with labor market demand, and industry partnerships play an important role in helping shape workforce pipelines that benefit graduates and businesses, alike.

ACambulanceBut sometimes beneficiaries of such partnerships can be found well outside the student-to-workforce framework.

For example, a collaboration between AC’s Emergency Medical Services Professions program and Amarillo Medical Services (AMS) puts paramedic students on the front lines of emergency care as real-life first-responders.

Field internships that pair AC students with AMS paramedics not only provide the students with valuable on-the-job training, but also directly impact patients in actual emergencies.

“The ultimate winners of our association with Amarillo College are the citizens of Amarillo,” said Will Hendon, EMS Chief at AMS, the exclusive 911 responder for the city of Amarillo. “The patients we serve on a day-to-day basis reap the benefits, not only now, but also as these students become the next generation of emergency responders.

“The future of emergency medical services is predicated on fostering talented people through collaborations like ours,” he said, “We are very pleased to be playing a role in the process of increasing these students’ knowledge by letting them partner with members of our team.”

Wade Olsen, director of the College’s EMT and paramedic programs, said AMS delivers everything one might seek in an industry partner, and a great deal more.

“The paramedics at AMS provide exceptional educational support for our students on an individual basis,” Olsen said. “The value of taking emergency calls on an actual ambulance alongside accomplished professionals is enormous in itself.

“But by being tremendously focused on our students’ learning curves as well, AMS is not only contributing to the ultimate success of our aspiring paramedics, but they are lending vital support to our all-important efforts to sustain accreditation. We are truly gratified by their support.”

Accreditation is both hard-earned and essential for programs in higher education whose graduates are required to become appropriately certified before they are deemed workforce eligible.

AC’s paramedic program is the only such program in the Texas Panhandle to hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). This is especially significant since Texas requires that paramedics not only pass a pre-employment national registry exam, but that they graduate from a CAAHEP-accredited program before they even qualify to sit for that exam.

“Sustaining elite accreditation is much easier when you work closely with a local professional service like AMS,” Olsen said. “When they embrace you, like AMS has embraced our hard-working students and our program, it’s just invaluable.”

Field internships and mentoring are not the only ways in which AMS has demonstrated its support of Amarillo College’s EMT and paramedic programs. Hendon recently encouraged Olsen to apply for a grant through his firm’s parent company, American Medical Response. The potential $18,000 award would be earmarked for student scholarships, and AC is in the application process now.

And when Olsen asked Hendon in December if AMS would be willing to loan the College some emergency medical equipment to ensure public safety during AC’s commencement ceremony at the Amarillo Civic Center – a new wrinkle in the coliseum-rental process – the response was both overwhelming and unexpected.

Instead of loaning out a few medical essentials, AMS provided a fully staffed ambulance, at no cost, and it remained on site until the Civic Center emptied.

“I said, ‘Will, it’s too much, all that overtime,’” Olsen said. “But he told me AMS wants to support AC, and that’s just what they did, and what they do. We simply could not ask for a better community partner than AMS.”