COVINGTON - Even though students in DeKalb Technical College's EMT and paramedic classes are training to work in ambulances, they've never had the opportunity to be in a real ambulance during class time.
Thanks to Newton Medical Center, those students now have that chance.
Earlier this semester, Newton Medical Center donated a late-'90s model ambulance to the school.
"It was one of the old ambulances that was due to be taken out of service," said the hospital's EMS Director James Osburn. "It had over 150,000 miles on it, so that type of vehicle, we don't find useful to us."
He said the hospital sometimes sells unused vehicles, but when Capt. Carli Cuendet brought up the idea to donate the ambulance to the school, hospital staffers latched onto the plan.
"We thought it would be more helpful to donate it to the school and be able to support them since they are training our future employees," Osburn said. "(The ambulance) is not of a real value to us ... and with DeKalb Tech being in our community, we thought it would be a good thing to do."
The hospital already allows DeKalb Tech medical students to train in its facilities.
The ambulance is almost fully equipped, with working sirens, lights and a stretcher. The school's EMS Program Director Becky Hill said the school also plans to buy some items to stock the ambulance for students to use when they are in it.
She also would like to paint the ambulance and have the school's lettering on it, if some company could donate the materials.
Students in classes at the school's Newton and Clarkson campuses will get to experience real-life simulations with the ambulance.
"We will stage a patient, work on them and take them out," Hill said. "It makes it more real for them to learn how to lift and work in an enclosed space."
This is the first time the students have had a real ambulance to work in, other than at clinical rotation trainings at various hospitals, including NMC.
"Before, they went in blind to their clinicals," Hill said. "Now, we hope they will go in there knowing how to enter and leave the truck and work in a confined space."
Osburn said most training classes don't have real ambulances for students to use.
"It's one of the big weaknesses of a lot of programs," he said. "I remember the first time I drove an ambulance as a new EMT, it was on a real call. Everything turned out OK, but it's not the safest."
Hill also plans to let the students drive the ambulances on the school's truck driver training course.
"I at least want them to do low-speed backing and use the mirrors," she said. "We're excited."
This is the first time the hospital has ever donated an ambulance to a school, and may do it again in the future.
"Every year or two years, we retire an ambulance," Osburn said. "When that time comes, we might look into it."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.