Making split second decisions. Going with your intuition. Never knowing how your day—or night—is going to pan out. Burning the ‘midnight oil’ in a hospital room to help save the life of a complete stranger…
Welcome to the world of emergency medical care. It’s stressful, it’s intense, it’s emotional…and it’s an industry that many, many people want to work in. That ‘never knowing’ feeling, mixed with the knowledge that you have the capability to save someone’s life, provides the adrenaline rush of excitement that aspiring paramedics thrive on.
It’s no secret that in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, the EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and Paramedic programs aren’t for everyone.
“The BMCC Paramedic program is very rewarding, especially knowing you’re making a difference in someone’s life. But you have to really, really want it,” says student Brittany Ross, who is training at New York Hospital Queens. “My advice is if you want to do it—go for it. For me, working with, and learning from seasoned paramedics and doctors is an amazing, exciting experience.”
The BMCC Paramedic course is 1,500 hours and lasts two years. First, students enroll in an EMT (basic) course, which is 160 hours and lasts three to four months.
EMT is a certification course, not a license, and, along with passing the New York State EMT certification exam, is a pre-requisite for transition into the Paramedic program.
“Students may also elect to take EMT and not take paramedic, or hold off taking paramedic,” says Dr. Frank Mineo, BMCC’s Paramedic Program Director.
Under the EMT umbrella, students learn CPR, basic airway control, how to splint, bleeding control, trauma management, patient assessment, and more. The Paramedic program expands on what students learned in EMT, heavily focusing on advanced airway management, cardiac monitoring, pharmacology, pediatrics, obstetrics and more.
EMT student Carmen Bonet, who plans to pursue a career as a paramedic, says the program has prepared her, from day one, for the state exam because the instructors are “amazing.”
“I’ve learned CPR, the legal aspects of being an EMT, about lifting and transporting patients…so much," she says. "You can provide more services as a paramedic, though, which is why many EMT students pursue that track.”
According to Paramedic Program Coordinator Guy Peifer, BMCC’s EMT course is 40 hours longer than the state-required minimum.
“Our program looked at New York State requirements and decided they weren’t enough. We have more clinical, classroom and skill hours than most of the programs out there. Plus, our instructor to student ratio is small, which is part of what makes it such a great program.”
Peifer himself has been an EMT since 1983, and became a paramedic in 1985. When he’s not teaching at BMCC, he works as a firefighter and paramedic in Yonkers.
Program is 'diverse and challenging'
Dr. Frank Mineo has been the BMCC Paramedic Program Director since 1992. A former paramedic, he’s also operated a hospital-based EMS (Emergency Medical Service) system and has been involved in EMS for “thirty-plus” years.
“We have some of the most diverse students at BMCC, who work with a faculty that has years of experience teaching EMT and paramedic students,” he says. “Together, we’ve created a program that’s interesting and challenging. EMS is a very diverse profession. Students can work in a variety of functions, and we teach that really well here.”
Since the program requires many (long) hours and lots of dedication, Dr. Mineo finds ways to reassure students they can find support and guidance right here at BMCC.
“We have graduates of our program come on our first night of class and speak to new students,” he explains. “They’ll say, ‘We were in your chairs, we know what it’s like…’ Listening to peers gives current students that sense of, ‘If you can do it, I can do it,’ and allows them to network as well. And, we, the faculty, remind students, we’ve also been in their seats and can help them through.
First accredited paramedic program at BMCC
BMCC’s Paramedic program is the first nationally accredited paramedic training program in New York State, which is “a great honor,” says Dr. Mineo. “We’re the first college to drive ourselves to an educational level that’s really above and beyond,” he says. “Using our human-patient simulation labs, which are really used in advanced medicine, we’re able to bring advanced training to our paramedic and EMT classes.”
At the on-campus human-patient simulation labs, instructors from the Department of Allied Health can set up healthcare ‘situations’ in which students practice and learn life-saving techniques by interacting with life-like mannequins, including an infant.
“In our labs, students are able to learn in a controlled environment, so when they’re out on the street in an uncontrolled environment, they’re better prepared to handle emergencies,” says Dr. Mineo.
Peifer agrees, calling the lab equipment used for training “some of the best in the city.
On-site and ready to roll
Once enrolled in the paramedic portion of the program—after passing the New York State EMT exam, of course—students attend classes four nights a week and engage in clinicals, which is location training.
“As part of any Emergency Medical Services (EMS) or paramedic training program, students gain hands-on experience in a hospital and ambulance, up to 16 hours a week,” says Dr. Mineo.
BMCC has a clinical affiliation with New York Downtown hospital and New York Hospital Queens. “Whether they’re doing 8-hour shifts on an ambulance or at a hospital in a critical care unit, when enhanced with the classroom trainings, paramedic students receive a breadth of medical experience.”
Paramedic student Brandon Adams initially enrolled as a Liberal Arts major at BMCC. But, after just a few days, he decided to switch majors when a flyer advertising the Paramedic program caught his eye. “I always wanted to work in healthcare,” he says.
At New York Downtown Hospital, Adams works as a “third”, a student/trainee in an ambulance who assists the paramedics.
“I am part of the team; I give the medics equipment, start IV lines, administer medications...” he says. “Sometimes, I’m just a set of eyes watching and learning. I’m fascinated by the way the human body reacts to so many different situations. Overall, I like the excitement of this field.”
Adams eventually hopes to work as a paramedic for the New York City Fire Department and someday become a physician’s assistant (PA). He feels very prepared for the state certification exams he must pass to become a New York State certified paramedic.
His friend and classmate Brittany Ross is also a “third”, but for New York Hospital Queens.
“The people I work with push you right in; they want to see what you know,” Ross says. “As a third, I help the team administer IVs, EKGS, put clues together, figure out how we can help this person. The classroom work definitely prepared me well for the field work, as I utilize my knowledge and skills to help the patient and the medical team. Someday, I’ll call the shots on the scene.”
Ross, who says she bonded quickly with her fellow classmates since they “are all going through this together,” recalls the moment when everything crystallized for her, and she knew medical care was her calling.
“One time, I was doing a rotation and we had cardiac arrest patient. We did compressions, distributed medications, and just when the outlook didn’t look good, the patient came around,” she says. “I remember thinking two things: I know what to do; I know how I can help this patient. And that was when I knew: This is it—This is the job for me.”