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Sanford Health EMT course scholarship offers opportunities in rural areas

Sanford Health Emergency Medical Services Education has received a grant for the third year that will offer full scholarships to those who enroll in its rural emergency medical technician course.

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Through the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Sanford Health Emergency Medical Services Education has received a grant that will offer full scholarships to students in its rural EMT program.
Courtesy / Sanford Health
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BEMIDJI — Sanford Health Emergency Medical Services Education has received a grant for the third year that will offer full scholarships to those who enroll in its rural emergency medical technician course.

Received through the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the grant is geared toward those living in the rural areas of Sanford locations and will provide training on prominent issues in the EMS field.

"The purpose of the grant is to help with recruitment of EMTs in the rural areas while addressing mental health and substance abuse," a release about the grant said.

The grant will offer full scholarships to those who enroll in Sanford Health's rural EMT course that begins on Aug. 23.

Much of the course will be held virtually — all students need is internet access for online lectures and the ability to drive to one of the course locations to complete in-person skill labs.

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Course locations in Minnesota include Bemidji, Bagley, Luverne and Thief River Falls.

The course, which is about the length of a semester, requires students to be available two evenings a week for an online lecture and an in-person skills lab. During the course, students will also go on ambulance ride-alongs to gain hands-on experience in the field.

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The rural EMT course will be held in a hybrid format, with one online lecture and one in-person skills lab each week.
Courtesy / Sanford Health

For Jamie Jacobson, manager of EMS operations with Sanford Ambulance in Thief River Falls and Bagley, the goal of the grant is to increase EMS presence in less populated areas.

“There came a need for more EMS people in the rural areas,” Jacobson said. “The thought is that if we have more EMTs in rural areas, they could help take the strain off other EMS and help more people.”

While EMT courses can often cost $1,000 or more, the grant offers scholarships that cover the costs of tuition and books, meaning students will only need to cover incidental expenses like travel, internet access and required vaccinations.

“Everything is free — the books, the class itself, the uniforms,” Jacobson said about the course. “Everything is paid for.”

Students don’t need any prior experience in the medical field to enroll in the course, Jacobson said. Everything a future EMT will need to know will be taught in the course.

“It’s for anybody who doesn’t have a current license,” Jacobson said. “It’s for brand new people who want to get into EMS, or people who used to do it and now (their license is) expired and they want to come back.”

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A focus on mental health

While students can expect to learn basic EMT duties during the course, there will also be an emphasis on mental health and substance abuse issues that EMTs might experience on the job.

“These courses focus on both patient care of persons with mental health issues, but also how the provider can manage their own mental health in the high-stress world of EMS responses, especially in rural areas,” the release about the grant said. “This year, the grant is also focusing on providing training on overdose complications and the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.”

To Jacobson, mental health training is becoming increasingly important for EMTs, as it teaches them to be more sensitive and understanding.

“With EMS, you deal with a lot of calls that are very emotional sometimes, so it can really take a toll on somebody,” Jacobson said. “We want to make sure that EMS people are being treated for mental health, and to bring awareness to how EMS deals with people who have mental health issues or behavioral health problems.”

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Sanford Health's rural EMT course, starting Aug. 23, will train students how to deal with prominent issues in the EMS field like mental health and substance abuse.
Courtesy / Sanford Health

After completing the course, students will take the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians test — those who pass will be certified to work as an EMT in any state in the U.S.

EMTs who wish to advance their career after the course have plenty of options, Jacobson said. Sanford Ambulance offers their EMTs full scholarships to paramedic school, or EMTs can branch off and become flight medics, nurses, physician assistants or doctors.

The deadline to apply for a scholarship is July 15, with award notifications set to begin the week of Aug. 1.

To learn more or apply, visit www.sanfordhealthemseducation.org/ruralemt.

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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