Med school's inaugural class trained as EMTs

Students begin their medical training with a nine-week program that culminates in becoming emergency medical technicians.

By Carolyne Krupa — Posted Aug. 22, 2011

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As first-year medical students nationwide donned lab coats for the white coat ceremonies that have become a tradition at many schools, 40 students at New York's newest medical school began classes with a different rite of passage.

They are starting their training to be physicians by first becoming certified emergency medical technicians.

The inaugural class of Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine in Hempstead, N.Y., began classes Aug. 1 -- the state's first allopathic medical school to open in 40 years. The EMT training is just one part of a nine-week course designed to give students a strong foundation for the remainder of their medical education.

"One of our goals is for them to understand that as a physician, you are not autonomous. You are actually part of a team," said Thomas Kwiatkowski, MD, emergency medicine professor and the school's assistant dean for education. "Many of the EMT skills are skills that all physicians should have."

Students will learn about a variety of topics, such as professional behavior, patient privacy laws and how to take a patient history and make a physical assessment. They also will receive training in anatomy, pharmacology and population health.

During the nine weeks, each student will go on six ambulance rides, including responding to 911 calls and helping transfer some of the sickest patients between facilities. There will be one student per ambulance supervised by professional EMTs.

"We expect them to be able to participate in the care based on what they have learned, and it will be progressive," Dr. Kwiatkowski said. "Their involvement will become more advanced as they move through the program."

After the nine weeks, students will take exams to become certified New York EMTs, after which the school will have its white coat ceremony, he said. Students then must make a minimum of two ambulance rides for each 12-week course during their first two years of school.

The program and EMT training are unique, said John E. Prescott, MD, chief academic officer for the Assn. of American Medical Colleges. "Whereas other medical schools have students engage in exposure to clinical settings early in their education, I don't know of any that are doing as extensive a program," he said.

The training will give students a strong clinical foundation, experience working in high-pressure patient-care situations and invaluable team-building skills, Dr. Prescott said.

"It helps set them on a pathway that they will be able to appreciate throughout their medical careers," he said. "More and more of what we are doing in health care is team-based."

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