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Pa. program to train new paramedics

August 31, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Flipping through the crisp pages of 15-pound textbooks on Wednesday morning, 13 students became the first to attend the Pennsylvania Institute of Applied Health Sciences.

In doing so, they brought a higher-learning institute back to Waynesboro for the first time in decades.

The primary certificate program combines 384 lecture hours and 804 hours of hands-on training for students desiring to be paramedics - a field that school officials say is facing a serious shortage of qualified people.

"Our graduates will have a pick of their job," said Dr. Robert Flint, academic dean. "It's a real need out there for quality and quantity of Advanced Life Support providers. It is becoming a national emergency."

The Waynesboro Area Advanced Life Support Medic 2 board of directors in the last year identified a shortage in high-quality education programs for paramedics in the Tri-State area, said Dr. Bruce Foster, the institute's dean and chief of emergency medicine at Waynesboro Hospital.

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The Medic 2 board took an existing educational program - the Cumberland Valley Institute for Continuing Medical Education - and expanded it to form the Pennsylvania Institute of Applied Health Sciences, which is an accredited college-level institution taught by more than 30 physicians, nurses, paramedics and physician's assistants.

Other programs

In addition to the paramedic program, the institute's directors want to offer national certificate programs in CPR, advanced cardiac life support and prehospital trauma life support.

"We have really a wide variety of course offerings through the institute," Flint said.

Officials said they hope to increase the class size to 20 to 25 in future years. Applications, which should be accompanied by SAT scores and high school transcripts, will be accepted starting in January for the late-August start of school in 2007.

"We hope eventually the institute will be primarily tuition funded. It will be self-sustaining," Foster said. Waynesboro Area Advanced Life Support provided seed money to launch the institute, he said.

Tuition for the one-year program is $9,500, according to documents.

Lecture space is being rented at the new Waynesboro Ambulance Squad headquarters on West Main Street, while clinical training is planned for Waynesboro, Chambersburg (Pa.) and Gettysburg (Pa.) hospitals, as well as Hershey Medical Center.

The institute has agreed to pay $1,800 a month in rent for the next year to the Waynesboro Ambulance Squad, according to Brent Frain, Ambulance Squad chief.

"It will go toward the mortgage. ... We're still probably $75,000 short of our capital campaign goal," Frain said. The new squad headquarters cost $2.3 million.

Students will rotate through departments, including the psychiatric department, operating room and emergency room, Foster said.

"We're really approaching this as a hands-on, case-based, real-world experience," Flint said.

The institute is in talks with Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md., to eventually offer the clinical portion of a bachelor's degree in emergency medical management. Only 12 universities in the nation offer a comparable four-year program, Foster said.

For more information, visit www.piahs.org.

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