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Ambulance simulator trains Denver high school students for EMT certifications


DENVER — The Fred N. Thomas Career Education Center Early College of Denver (CEC) prepares students for careers after school. Inside one of their classrooms is a new feature that’s impossible to miss — an ambulance simulator where students can train for their EMT certifications.

The choice, public high school offers early college options as well, while students can also take career classes.

Denver Health partnered with the school in 2019, bolstering its emergency medical response program and allowing it to equip students with EMT certifications.

“Without our partnership with Denver Health, our students could learn basic first aid, they could learn CPR. But because of our partnership, we’re now able to elevate the program and make it into a full-time certification,” said Kelly Ramos, the EMT instructor at CEC. “Without the Denver Health component, our program wouldn’t be what it is right now.”

Ramos said 15 students have obtained their certification through the program, which is free of charge when offered through the school.

Ramos spent several years trying to get a simulated ambulance inside their classroom and achieved her goal through a $37,000 grant. The ambulance was officially installed in March.

“It has built a whole, newfound respect for the first responders that are out on the street and that are responding and taking care of patients,” said Ramos. “At the high school level, a simulated ambulance, this is the first one.”

The program is especially important amid a nationwide health care worker shortage. A National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians survey explored the reasons respondents plan to leave the profession. Forty-five percent of EMS respondents plan to leave their career within six years, according to the study.

EMT numbers_National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians 2022 national survey_reasons for leaving EMS graph

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians 2022 national survey

According to a 2022 survey by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, 45% of EMS respondents plan on leaving the profession within six years.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections program reports around 18,000 openings for EMTs and paramedics are expected each year on average over the decade. Overall employment of EMTs and paramedics is expected to grow 5% from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average of all occupations.

EMT numbers_percent change of people applying for paramedic/emt positions in 2019 to 2023

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians

According to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians’ 2023 national survey, agencies across the United States saw a decrease in applications for paramedic/EMT positions, down on average 13% compared to 2019.

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians 2023 national survey shows most agencies are experiencing increasing turnover rates paired with a decrease in applications.

“There’s a shortage of health care providers that persists today. It’s been going on for a few years. We’ve seen some improvements, but we still need to work towards that goal of increasing people coming to the field, whether it’s emergency medical services or nursing or even physician,” said Assistant Chief for Denver Health’s Paramedic Division Justin Harper. “There’s a lack of diversity, especially in emergency medical services. We see that not just locally but across the United States. So, getting folks interested in a health care career, and specifically, being a paramedic or an EMT, is the first step to try to encourage more people to come to the field.”

EMT numbers_National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians average annual turnover rate for field practitioners

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians

Most agencies report experiencing increasing turnover rates, from 8% on average in 2019 to 11% in 2022, according to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

Harper believes the class at CEC helps inspire students to do this work while giving them a path to follow for a future career.

It really is an accomplished feeling to see these students get through this program,” Harper said while sitting in the classroom. “Hopefully, the next step is that they come into the field, and even just come and work for Denver Health. That’s a success story for us.”


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