TERRE HAUTE — Ambulance lights flashed in the Terre Haute South Vigo High School automotive lab, but not for an emergency.

Scott Dalton, a paramedic and owner of Medatech, was teaching Vigo County high school students how to load and unload patients using a gurney as part of their emergency medical services program.

The health career students are benefiting from a recent acquisition — a used ambulance, cot and other equipment.

Doug Dillion, the district's director of career-technical education, said the school corporation recently purchased the items from an ambulance service that was closing and auctioning its equipment. The district ended up paying $6,500 for the ambulance and related equipment and the company — Southwest Medical Services — donated part of the cost.

The district received equipment valued at about $13,000, including medical splints and backboards, Dillion said.

“We came out really, really well,”he said.

New gurneys are expensive and much more than the district could pay.

Dillion said the purchases “really give our kids a leg up on the [EMT] skills test and written test and it will give our kids a huge advantage when they go out and do practicums.”

The district has offered the EMT program for about four years.

The night classes Tuesdays and Thursdays are taught by Dalton through Medatech, a business he owns that does emergency response training. He also is a captain with the Terre Haute Fire Department and teaches off duty.

The ambulance is providing an “amazing” opportunity for students, Dalton said.

“We can practice these skills in a controlled environment,” which prepares students for some of the unpredictable things that might happen during clinicals, he said.

The program also involves ambulance and emergency room clinicals working with Terre Haute Fire Department and Union Hospital. Clinicals are hands on, and students are able to take vital signs and do assessments, he said.

“When they go to clinicals, I expect they interact and engage with patient care,” Dalton said.

Students also earn dual credit through Ivy Tech; students earn 7 1/2 college credits and six high school credits, Dillion said. Between classroom work and clinicals, the course involves about 240 hours.

Khara Totten, a South Vigo senior, said having the ambulance and other equipment is a great opportunity for students.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to practice with it and just get us ready for when we are certified,” she said.

The class is demanding, she said, but Dalton “is a very good instructor,” and students “are really good at communicating and helping each other.”

After graduation, she plans to attend Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College to study nursing.

Students in the EMT program are from North, South and West Vigo high schools.

They will train using the ambulance, but students will not drive it, Dillion said. “They are learning not only how to get people in and out, but also how to work on people inside a confined space and know where all items are stored.”

Students who complete the program and pass skills and written tests get EMT certified.

The district offers a health careers pathway, and the first year all students take the same program. Students then apply for the second year and can specialize in a nursing, special topics or EMS.

While the class has already begun using the ambulance, the district still needs to change the ambulance labeling to reflect it belongs to the school district — something that students in auto collision classes will do. It will be labeled as a training ambulance.

Also, the district will loan the ambulance to partners who might need it for training or certification skills testing, whether Ivy Tech, Indiana State University or Clay Community Schools, which is in the same CTE district as Vigo, Dillion said.

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