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New PCC course comes at a critical time

Story by Abe Proctor, photos by James Hill.

First Responce

The first moments after an accident – whether on the road, or in the home – can be critical. The right kind of care, on the scene, can help a victim hold on until medical professionals arrive, literally making the difference between life and death.

Portland Community College’s newly state-approved First Responders program – based out of the Cascade Campus – teaches people how to step in and help when a situation demands immediate, on-the-scene care. It teaches “basic initial responses to critical, out-of-hospital situations,” said Mark Hornshuh, a program specialist with the college’s Emergency Services Department. “It’s a limited scope of practice, but for the most part, the things that First Responder students learn are the most immediate, critical steps that need to be taken in an emergency.”

These steps, Hornshuh said, involve such things as general bandaging and control of blood loss, CPR, airway maintenance, treatment for shock, spinal immobilization, splinting, the administration of oral glucose for diabetics, and the lifting and movement of patients when necessary. As a rule, the skills practiced by First Responders are more extensive than basic first aid, but stop short of the more advanced techniques and technologies used by paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Generally, First Responders’ techniques are noninvasive and can be applied using materials on hand. They do, however, learn the basics of triage – how to assess which patient is the most injured, and which kinds of injuries take precedence over others.

But being a First Responder doesn’t stop with administering basic emergency care, Hornshuh said. It also encompasses interacting with patients, putting them at ease, and learning to describe accurately and thoroughly both the accident scene and the nature of the emergency to medical professionals. The more clearly that medical personnel are able to anticipate the scene of an accident, the better prepared they are to deal with the situation, and the more likely they are to be able to save a victim.

The college is seeking a bond measure in November of 2008. Proposed plans call for expanding the First Responders program by creating a simulations lab for students. Cascade Campus could also expand First Responders to the west side of Portland.

Students practice First Responce

Students practice accident-scene response

The First Responder course is open to the general public, but often is used by law enforcement agencies, 911 operators, fire departments, and even businesses so that they can have a staff member on hand who is able to step up and provide basic care in the event of an emergency. The course is now the program of choice for the Portland Fire Bureau, which, until recently, provided its own First Responder training to its non-medical personnel. Graduates of the course, which follows a standardized national curriculum, receive state certification as a First Responder.

“Several large companies in the area have been very appreciative of this training,” said Kal Robertson, director of PCC’s Emergency Services Department, which oversees the program. “It makes people in an organization feel more secure knowing that they have someone who knows what to do in an injury situation.”

The course also has served as an educational entry point for people who want to pursue a further medical career, or for those who discover they have an aptitude or passion for such work, Hornshuh said.

“Many students decide they want to do more,” he said. “It’s a good place to get your feet wet and to get a start in the medical field.”

For more information about the First Responders program, call (503) 978-5570.

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