Joe Wyatt
Published April 15, 2020

It should come as no surprise when faculty in Amarillo College’s Emergency Medical Services Professions (EMSP) program take swift and decisive action in meeting a challenge head-on.

Paul Whitfield teaches class IN

That's simply how first-responders roll.

Fortunately, it’s a proactive approach that also happens to be paying dividends right now for about 50 AC students enrolled in either Basic or Advanced EMT classes.

When faced with restrictions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, including expectations of having to shelter in place, EMSP faculty preemptively enacted curricular changes to keep their students on track to completion.

Although the schedule called for lectures and labs on alternating days, faculty prudently opted to shake things up by frontloading classes with hands-on labs and keeping lectures, which can easily be delivered remotely, in reserve.

“It’s had a positive impact,” Paul Whitfield, associate professor of EMSP, said. “Conducting all the labs first, then delivering lectures online, has helped ensure that our students can complete their academic requirements in a timely fashion.

“Their required hospital rotations and ambulance field work, which have been put on hold by the medical community, will have to wait probably until June; however, with their academics completed – no labs to make up – they really won’t be that far removed from their original completion dates, all things considered.”

Wade Olsen, EMSP program director, attributes the success of the coursework shakeup to the academic latitude granted by College leaders.

“It’s because our leadership made reasonable, rational decisions that we were able to keep our students on track to complete their programs as close to on time as possible,” Olsen said.

“Our president, vice presidents and deans took a measured approach to the problems we faced, and that gave us the leeway to rearrange the delivery of our academic content in a way that made sense for our students.”

This is hardly the only good news to emerge from AC’s EMSP program of late. Equally gratifying is that all 11 students in AC’s Paramedic class – the discipline’s highest level of study – are on track to graduate in May.

Paramedics are the highest classified pre-hospital providers of medical care in Texas.

Because they are on the cusp of becoming certified paramedics, and the present need for qualified medical personnel is great, AC’s entire Paramedic cohort is exempted from the restrictions affecting lower-level students.

The capstone students therefore are proceeding with their requisite hospital rotations and field internships, uninterrupted.

“They are doing what they’ve been trained to do,” Olsen said. “They’re completing their educational requirements at the same time they’re making a real difference in the lives of people because that’s what healthcare workers do.

“The value of taking emergency calls on an actual ambulance alongside accomplished professionals is enormous, so we are truly grateful to Amarillo Medical Services (AMS) for allowing our capstone students to stay on track in the face of this pandemic.

“Without vital support from AMS our Paramedic students would never have gotten this far, and right now our community really needs this next crop of our graduates.”


PHOTO: Paul Whitfield demonstrates a technique.