Howard EMS program combines technology and real-world experience to save lives

Inside a classroom at Howard Community College's new health sciences building are computerized mannequin patients, a replica ambulance and other devices that place students in simulated life-and-death situations.

The facilities are part of the school's emergency medical service/paramedic program, which trains students to respond to the situations they'll face on emergency calls.


But for Cory Boone and Nick Frazier, there's nothing like the real thing.

They would know. Early this year, the Ellicott City residents, both students in the program, applied the skills they learned in class and while volunteering with the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue to assist victims of cardiac arrest.

Officials with the EMS/paramedic program hold up Boone's and Frazier's experience as an example of how students in the program come out ready to serve.

The EMS/paramedic program, which has been at the school for years, has moved to the new health sciences building, a $50.7 million facility that opened in January. The building, which houses programs in radiological technology, nursing and other health fields, serves about 2,100 health science students.

Boone, Frazier and others receive instruction from professionals in the field, then put that training to the test by taking part in ambulance runs and assisting nurses in hospital emergency rooms.

Angel Burba, the EMS program director, said the real-world experience helps bolster a program she launched more than 10 years ago.

She said the program is accelerated and "competency-based," meaning rigorous training inside and outside the classroom ensures students don't graduate "until they've seen a certain amount of patients, done a certain amount of things, and you've done them correctly a certain amount of times.

"You can't just go and do a clinical rotation in a fire department and sit in a firehouse," she said.

In addition to the classroom work, Frazier and Boone have been trained in new techniques taught by the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue. Those techniques include a crew resource management program, created by Capt. Dale Becker of the department. The procedure involves the practice of specific pre-assigned duties for emergency calls involving cardiac arrest.

For his efforts, Becker was named this month as one of the nation's top 10 innovators for 2012 in the EMS field by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services.

The techniques came in handy when Boone and Frazier served as time and coordination managers on emergency calls that treated cardiac arrest patients.

Boone, 19, was on an ambulance when his crew was told a patient was suffering cardiac arrest while the unit was on the way to his home.

"I kept time, but I didn't actually touch the patient," said Boone. "[The driver] begins performing CPR … and I start a time keep. It keeps everything organized and in sync for when the other ambulance shows up. We kept steady, uninterrupted CPR. That's one of the keys [to the procedure]."

Frazier's experience, while serving on a fire engine, involved coordinating one member of the crew administering CPR compressions on a patient and another working a bag-valve mask to deliver oxygen.


During the incident, Frazier, 23, was, "making sure the [CPR] depth and compression rate are going correctly, and making sure that individuals switch compressions at correct intervals."

Neither knows what happened to their respective patients, but they said the hearts of both were beating on their own when they were taken to Howard County General Hospital.

"It's a little different when you get to see the things you're learning … be applied and come out with the desired goal," Frazier said. "It's a good feeling, but it's also 'What's coming next?' "

Burba said that as Boone and Frazier relate their experiences, they set examples for other students in the classes. She said the runs occurred as students were learning about cardiac rhythms.

"When I watch them perform the skills, I recognize the type of providers they're going to be," Burba said. "They're people we're going to be proud to call products of this program."