The Star-Herald

New NMCC ambulance will give students realistic EMT experience

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Northern Maine Community College students studying to be paramedics and emergency medical technicians will receive a more realistic training than ever after the college acquired a training ambulance on Tuesday, June 30. 

Students will simulate performing medical services on mannequins inside the $240,000 state-of-the-art vehicle. NMCC President Tim Crowley said it would be the only in-service ambulance in the Maine Community College System specifically dedicated to training.

In an aging community like Aroostook County, the quick services that emergency medical personnel provide are vital, as exemplified by the community-led creation of the Central Aroostook Ambulance Service after Northern Light Medical Transport pulled out of providing those communities with emergency medical services. That need has only heightened with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Interior of Northern Maine Community College’s EMS training ambulance on Tuesday, June 30. (David Marino Jr.)

Using the ambulance in conjunction with the health simulation center the college inaugurated in 2018, the EMS department’s 27 students will experience what it is like to respond to an emergency call, place somebody inside an ambulance on a stretcher and provide care while the ambulance drives.

The ambulance was purchased — partially with donations for the project — from vehicle dealer Autotronics, which has offices in Frenchville and Bangor. The vehicle’s drive-in from Frenchville onto campus on Tuesday was witnessed by Crowley, EMS department chair Andrew Gagnon and other faculty members. 

Crowley said the ability to simulate moving patients and operating on them in transit was more critical than ever in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He said changes in medical infrastructure across Maine were making it crucial to train medical experts ready to perform those tasks, as patients were increasingly being brought to hospitals outside Aroostook County for treatment.

“It’s more important than ever,” Crowley said. “The number of paramedics and advanced EMTs in this region is very low.”  

A mannequin used by the EMS department at Northern Maine Community College on Tuesday, June 30. (David Marino Jr.)

Daryl Boucher, vice president of nursing and patient care services at Northern Light A.R. Gould  Hospital, said the purchase would help the community and enhance NMCC’s EMT program. 

“It is critical that upon graduation, new paramedic hires are work-ready,” Boucher said. “Having a training ambulance to simulate real world care will undoubtedly produce stronger, better prepared graduates.” 

“These are some of the most challenging times ever for our students,” Gagnon said. “If you can prepare even better so that there’s no surprises, that is the best-case scenario.”

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