Becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT)

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Emergency medical services (EMS) are a vital part of emergency medicine, with their dedicated personnel standing at the ready to help to those in need. The profession isn’t for everyone, but for those who answer the call, the rewards are great. One of the first steps to becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT), the entry level of an EMS crew, is to take an EMT-Basic Course. It teaches all of the skills necessary for an individual to provide emergency medical care at a Basic Life Support level with an ambulance or other specialized service. Many Advanced Life Support ambulance services offer this course, Tri-County Health Care included.

“We have an 89-percent pass rate,” Paramedic Renee Miller said of TCHC’s EMT-Basic Course. “We’re cost efficient, and we have local instructors who are dedicated to the success of future of EMS professionals.”

Though it’s not a given, Renee said graduates of the class often come back to work at TCHC. “We can evaluate their skill levels on the trucks when they’re in class,” she said. “We hire a lot out of our classes.”

Gasiem Gonzalez, EMT, took the course last summer before being hired at TCHC in September.

“Working and riding along with everybody here, it was a close-knit community,” he said. “It was easy to get along with everyone. They’re very hands-on. It’s very easy to approach pretty much anybody.”

Before last year, Gasiem didn’t believe he would be a good fit for EMS, instead thinking he would pursue a position in the shipping industry or something similar.

“The ambulance and the hospital scene, I thought it would be too much of a responsibility for me,” he said. “I didn’t know how to cope and deal with the atmosphere, so I never cared to pursue it.”

But then Richie Rexach, paramedic at TCHC, encouraged Gasiem to sign up for the next EMT-Basic Course.

“He thought I’d be a good fit, so I gave it a shot and ended up liking it,” Gasiem said. “It’s not just a job. It’s something that I can use to help other people in their time of need. On the worst day of their life, I get to help make it a little bit better or have purpose.”


Hands-on teamwork

Once a student completes the EMT-Basic Course, they are eligible to take the exam for the National Registry to get certified as an EMT-Basic in the state of Minnesota. After that, they must

Gasiem Gonzalez, EMT

complete 24 (state) to 48 (national) hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certification. This continuing education can be done at TCHC.

This year, TCHC’s course will feature a primary instructor and implement other instructors in order to expose students to a variety of knowledge and experience.

The overall atmosphere and hands-on attitude of the team are reasons why Gasiem believes TCHC’s EMT-Basic Course is a step above the rest.

“I know from experiencing it here, it’s very close-knit, and you can ask anybody a question, no matter how stupid it may seem. Just ask a question and they’ll tell you, and they’ll generally give you a reason why. You can use that to train yourself and remember it.”

Gasiem also noted that anyone interested in taking the course should focus fully on the class and avoid extra schooling.

“If you’re doing that at the same time as taking your EMT class, you’re going to burn out,” he said. “I’ve seen a few students pass and then felt like they couldn’t do it because they were so burnt out and left. Focus on one thing at a time.”


EMT-Basic course sign up 

The EMT-Basic course at TCHC begins on Sept. 9 and runs through Dec. 19. It will be held every Monday and Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m., and some Saturdays. This 144-hour course includes CPR, Fisdap and skills testing.

Pre-registration is required, and there is a maximum capacity of 15 spots. For questions or for more information, contact Renee Miller at To register, click here.

A matter of life or death

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist


The start of a new year is typically a time of eager anticipation and the promise of new beginnings. For Thomas and Tammy Williams, it was a time of terror and the very real possibility of loss.

Near the end of December, Thomas had a tonsillectomy to remove his tonsils and a septoplasty to straighten his nose for better airflow. The procedures went off without a hitch, and he was discharged on the 30th.

On the evening of Jan. 1, while recovering from surgery at his home near Henning, Thomas started to cough. Tammy believes that the force dislodged the healing scabs in his throat. He began bleeding severely and heaving up blood.

Tammy immediately called 911.

The Henning ambulance picked them up and rushed toward Tri-County Health Care. The TCHC ambulance met them along the way. By the time they got to Wadena, Thomas was unresponsive with a dangerously low blood pressure. He entered hypovolemic shock as they pulled into the ambulance garage, having lost so much blood that his heart couldn’t circulate enough to sustain him.

“Dr. Faith was working that night,” Tammy recalled, “and he said it was a matter of life or death.”A photo of Thomas Williams, who was saved by the TCHC emergency department, with his family posing for a photo on the frozen lake.

With experience as a registered nurse, Tammy knew the gravity of Thomas’ condition. Her mind ran wild as she watched the staff pump Thomas with fluids and blood, hoping to stabilize him.

“I must have looked white because someone pushed up a chair behind me,” she said. “They knew exactly what I needed. That’s just a tiny example of all that they did for us.”

As the team brought Thomas’ blood pressure up, they called for a helicopter to bring him to St. Cloud for emergency surgery.

“It was surreal, but it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been,” Tammy said. “I was impressed with their calmness, quickness and professionalism.”

Tammy couldn’t ride with her husband in the helicopter, so it was imperative for her to see him off and say goodbye in case he didn’t make it to his destination. Their two children, ages 18 and 24, and daughter-in-law were on their way to the hospital when they were held up by a train. By then, the helicopter had arrived and was ready to take Thomas away.

“Dr. Faith said they would wait for them,” Tammy said. “He and the ED staff were so considerate of the whole situation. They waited for the kids to come and tell Thomas goodbye.”

Thomas arrived in St. Cloud and was rushed to surgery to cauterize his wounds and stop the bleeding. The procedure was successful. He was discharged the next day and returned home with his wife and children. The remainder of his recovery went smoothly.

“When a situation like that happens, if someone wasn’t quick enough or if the team didn’t work, it could have been a different story,” Tammy said. “(Without the EMS and ED staff,) Thomas would have been gone. It was the whole team working as a well-oiled machine. They are the whole package. We’re so thankful.”