Center helps launch emergency response careers


The Life EMS Ambulance Education Centre provides training to its employees, as well as courses that have launched thousands of emergency response careers in West Michigan. Courtesy Life EMS

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2014-24, the number of emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the field is expected to grow by 24 percent — more than three times the average rate for most occupations.

For the more than 190 instructors at Grand Rapids’ Life EMS Ambulance Education Centre, that means they’ll be busy for quite some time.

For nearly three decades, the Education Centre has provided not only continuing education for its employees but also initial education courses, launching the careers of thousands of emergency response professionals in West Michigan.

“We provide education that all of us need, we have to be lifelong learners in this environment,” Life EMS Education Centre director Gil Jacques said. “If we fall behind on any skills or our education, we’re unable to do the things we need to help people out.”

The facility offers initial training courses to be certified as a basic EMT, Medical First Responder and paramedic in addition to its continuing education programs. Also, Jacques said the center offers first aid and CPR training in its capacity as an American Heart Association Training Center.

The center has three full-time instructors, including Jacques, and 14 other instructor coordinators who are available to teach classes on a part-time basis. Additionally, the AHA training center has 184 active CPR instructors on hand.

Jacques estimated about 60 students graduated from the EMT program last year. The center also taught 652 CPR classes, instructing 4,466 students on how to react in an emergency. Those students ranged from paramedics, EMTs and MFRs to high school and college students and employees at various businesses across the area.

In 2016, Jacques said the center has offered 80 continuing education courses and trained about 860 students in the latest life-saving techniques.

Courses are split between in-class training — learning the legal ins and outs of being an EMT and how to handle trauma — and real-life simulation, training on mannequins and getting a feel for what it’s like to work out of an ambulance. Jacques said because Life EMS is an ambulance service, the center offers more experienced trainers than might typically be available for EMT training.

“We’re able to offer a varying range of experience — whether it’s urban or rural or the different types of EMS services that are out there,” he said.

Jacques said once students complete their paramedic or EMT training, many use it as a stepping stone into other, more advanced medical careers, with some going on to become nurses, physicians assistants and even physicians.

Additionally, the six-month course serves as somewhat of a job interview for students at the center. Once their training is complete, it’s not uncommon for them to be hired at Life EMS.

“For us, being able to do that vetting process right here for these students that have done their education with us is a huge benefit,” Jacques said. “Our instructors get to know the student and their strengths much better than you would during a 40-minute interview process.”

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