CLIFTON PARK – Olivia Gambino knows she wants to enter the medical field, but she’s not sure what specific profession she wants to pursue.
Now, thanks to a new program built out of a partnership between the Town of Clifton Park, Clifton Park-Halfmoon EMS, Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC), Career Jam and the Shenendehowa Central School District, the 17-year-old Gambino and other Shenendehowa High School students will have an opportunity to gain hands-on medical experience before going to college – and all of it at no cost to them.
“It’s good to be exposed to this before I enter college to get a better idea of what I want to study,” Gambino said. “I’m really excited about this opportunity because it gives me more experience before entering college to learn more about this type of career.”
The EMT Career Pathway Pilot Program, which launched Thursday, allows Shenendehowa students who are 17 and older – participants must be 18 at the time of the NYS EMT certification test – to enroll at HVCC and earn seven college credits as they study to be EMTs. Coursework includes lectures as well as hands-on EMT training and shadowing, all in preparation for the state’s written certification test.
The program, funded through Saratoga County, targets students who have an interest in the medical field and is meant to help them on their career paths to becoming paramedics, nurses, doctors or other healthcare workers. In the meantime, the program trains the students to be EMTs and helps meet a critical community need.
The Clifton Park & Halfmoon Emergency Corps is currently sufficiently staffed, said Alan Bell, the executive director, but demand in the region continues to increase. Calls for ambulance services last year climbed to roughly 8,200, up from 6,800 the previous year, Bell said.
“This pipeline helps us greatly for the future,” Bell said, adding the profession is often a common stepping stone for other health care careers and turnover can be high.
Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said the idea for the program came out of a casual conversation he had with the county’s EMS coordinator about the need to foster more interest in emergency services.
“We need to make sure now and well into the future that when people hit 911 there is enough personnel to respond and respond quickly and in a professional manner. We have that today in Clifton Park and Saratoga County, but what steps can we take to ensure that we always have that service in Saratoga County?” Barrett said. “That’s why we’re here, and that’s what we’re attempting to accomplish.”
Shenendehowa’s Superintendent of Schools L. Oliver Robinson said he’s inspired by the students who want to train to be EMTs.
“When you know that every day what you do is making a difference in the lives of others, that’s pretty significant,” Robinson said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to give back to our community.”
Gambino said her interest in entering health care only grew during the pandemic.
“Especially after COVID, I think everyone has realized how hard health care workers work and how difficult of a job it is. Programs like this will hopefully bring more awareness and hopefully inspire [young people] to enter this field,” Gambino said.
Students who enroll in the program will spend a good portion of their summer studying to be an EMT. The program runs June 27 through August 25, with classes held 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays. In total, the program involves about 150 hours worth of curriculum. The written state certification exam will take place two weeks after the course.
All that time is worth it to Paige Adams, an 18-year-old senior who is planning to attend the University of Rhode Island in the fall to study health sciences with a goal of becoming a physician assistant or a nurse.
Adams, who has known she wanted to pursue a career in health care since at least middle school, said the EMT program will give her more confidence as she heads to college.
“If it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t really have the hands-on experience until my first year of college,” Adams said. “The confidence that many students will have is different than if they didn’t have this program.”
The hands-on learning opportunities, with the chance to shadow real EMTs and be on the scene helping real patients, is what sets this program apart, Gambino said.
“We’ll be seeing a lot of EMTs work real-time, in real life, and that’s different from what you can see in a classroom, or in a video,” she said. “It’s going to prepare us for what we’re going to see in the future.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.