More than 750,000 people live in the Northwest Georgia region these days. And today, with the Baby Boomer generation beginning to look for extended health care, as well as a large number of industrial workers tackling hazardous jobs day in and day out here in the Tennessee Valley, the need for Emergency Medical Service specialists is greater than ever before.
This week alone, there are more than 300 EMS openings across the Peach State. When you crunch the numbers, the need for educational programs such as the one offered at Georgia Northwestern Technical College becomes a top priority.
No one is more aware of that than those who call the region their home. The head of GNTC’s EMS Program, Claudio Leyssens, is one of them. With more than 25 years of experience in Emergency Medical care and instruction, the GNTC Program Director helps educate students enrolled in his certificate and diploma programs. Classes are offered on both the Catoosa County Campus (Ringgold) and Floyd County Campus (Rome, Ga.) throughout the year.
Two foundations in the Northwest corner of the state have now stepped up to help the EMS program on the Catoosa County Campus in Ringgold. The Pierce Foundation out of Chattanooga, and the Jewell based in Chickamauga, lent a helping hand. The two groups helped purchase the majority of the new simulator from Rescue Simulation Products in McKinney, Texas.
Betts Berry and Richard Jewell, both with the Jewell Foundation, were both enrolled in the same EMS program when they went to college. “It’s powerful to see these local charities invest in what we do at the college,” said Jason Gamel, Georgia Northwestern Technical College director of Student Recruitment. “Plus, with Betts (Berry) and Richard (Jewell) both having their own experience in training for the EMS field, they really understand just how important this kind of gift is to the program.”
Mr. Leyssens, at the helm of the program on the Catoosa County Campus and Floyd County Campus, was honored earlier this year for his work in education over the past 15 years. Mr. Leyssens was named the 2017 Northwest Georgia Region 1 “Mike Miller EMS Educator Of The Year.” The EMS Region 1 in Georgia covers, Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker, and Whitfield Counties.
"The simulator was a true need that we know gives our students an upper hand,” said Mr. Leyssens. “Now, students will have real experience working in the small, closed environment of an ambulance. It makes a real difference. It will add a level of realism that cannot be achieved any other way. They’ll be better prepared as they enter the workforce.”
Mr. Leyssens says the Rescue Simulation Products company which came to install the simulator on the Catoosa County Campus stays very busy these days. “The representatives say they have been sending one installation crew on the road every week for quite a while,” said Mr. Leyssens. “But, they said they are now at a point where the demand for these emergency simulation installations is great enough to have two separate crews hitting the road each week. They flew in on a Monday, worked Tuesday through Thursday, then were back on a plane Friday morning.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that the number of available EMS careers in the country will grow nearly 25% from 2014-2024. That’s a much faster rate of growth than that of the average occupation in the U.S. More than a quarter of a million people were employed as Emergency Medical Services specialists nationwide in 2016.
GNTC offers Emergency Medical Service certificate and diploma programs year round. Plus, the college offers more than 200 other programs online and on-campus. Campuses are located in Ringgold (Catoosa County Campus), Rome (Floyd County Campus), Calhoun (Gordon County Campus), Rockmart (Polk County Campus), Rock Spring (Walker County Campus), and Dalton (Whitfield Murray Campus).