The West End now has 10 new emergency medical technicians ready to respond to emergencies.
The 10 recent graduates of the EMT Basic training at Forks Community Hospital are prepared to go out into the community and deal with life-threatening circumstances and transport the patients safely to the hospital.
But they still have to pass a test — the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians Test — before they get to take on all of the required tasks. For now they’re riding along with more experienced EMTs.
Becky Wilson, who with Jenny Garstang teaches the course, said they’re looking for new volunteers for the next course, which likely will start this fall.
Volunteers have to be 18 (or 17, with plans to take the test at 18). And they have to have a driver’s license and a high school diploma.
Even more importantly, Wilson added, they have to be a special kind of person. “They have to want to help the community,” she said. “You get to be there to make a difference,” she said, but it isn’t easy work.
EMTs respond to everything, she said: “Auto accidents, strokes, heart attacks” and more.
They aren’t altogether unprepared for the sights that await them. “When we’re there in class, about halfway through, we let them start going out on the ambulance,” Wilson said. “They get to see it from beginning to end. They see what kind of effect it has on us, what kind of effect it has on the family and what kind of effect it has on the patient.”
Call and respond
EMTs also have to donate time. When they’re on call, they have to be fewer than five minutes away from the ambulance station at the hospital.
From there the ambulances fan out to a very large area, including Forks, LaPush, the Hoh and all of the side roads. That includes portions of Jefferson County.
On average, the barn gets two calls a day. To meet the demand requires three shifts of three on-call EMTs, 365 days a year.
And they’re all volunteers.
They all have different reasons for signing up.
Caleb Larson is one of the new graduates. He has seasonal employment with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which leaves him plenty of free time. He said, “I always have to be doing something and this is something to do that’s beneficial to people.”
He said the time he spent riding along as an observer provided a glimpse into the task at hand.
“It wasn’t quite what I thought,” Larson said. “It’s not all drama and car crashes.”
“There are a lot of falls,” he said. “But it’s still pretty crazy.”
Bridgette Soha, the manager of the Mill Creek Bar and Grill, shared similar views, saying she signed up because it was “an opportunity to do some volunteer work in the community.”
“I jumped on it,” she said. “I took a lot of rides. It’s definitely different when you’re on them rather than reading about it.”
Kayla Crippen, who works with Soha at Mill Creek, said the training is fairly difficult. “There’s a lot to it. You’ve got to work hard, stay focused.”
But, she added, the working EMTs were very helpful. “And they really know what they’re doing.”
Erika Olson said she’s following an old family tradition. Her dad is a paramedic and both uncles were EMTs.
Ernie Penn, perhaps the oldest of the new grads, had a specific interest in signing up. Penn will be among the first crew to be based at the new fire and ambulance sheds now under construction by the Hoh Tribe.
The new station should be open by early September.
Penn said the new station will provide service to all of western Jefferson County.
The other new graduates include Ashley BouPane, Kataleen Roberts, Lester Fisher, Joey Wallace and Leslie Ashue.
Generous with time and spirit
Becoming an EMT takes quite a commitment of time and talent. And a few bucks.
The course can run six months, with classes held Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, from 6-10 p.m. Wilson said the courses are getting longer as they become more comprehensive. “They’re adding more and more to the curriculum,” Wilson said.
The classes cost $250, which is used to purchase the requisite materials, including the manuals, a face mask and other equipment.
“It’s one of the least expensive classes around,” said Wilson. She noted that students are reimbursed in full if they simply continue working for six months.
“We are constantly looking for new people,” she said.
To sign up, drop by the office at 530 Bogachiel Way or call (360) 374-6271 ext. 125.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.