PATTENIn response to a critical shortage of emergency medical technicians in Patten, Northern Maine Community College will offer free Basic EMT training beginning Feb. 1 at the Patten fire station. The course will run for 15 weeks, concluding in May, and will take place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 until 9 p.m., and select Saturdays. All books and training supplies will be provided at no cost to students.

“Patten’s ambulance service is facing an EMS shortage that’s reaching a point that could compromise their ability to provide care,” NMCC EMS Department Chair Andrew Gagnon said. “We’ve decided to provide this training locally at no cost to ensure that they have the workforce required to continue providing this valuable service. Ambulance service is important for any area, but especially such a rural area.” In previous years Patten provided EMS service to surrounding towns, including Sherman; however, the current workforce shortage required the town to discontinue that contract.

Patten Town Manager Darrell Mims will be one of the first students enrolled in the training. “I’m excited about it,” he said, hoping that leading by example will inspire other citizens to participate. Mims raised awareness about the workforce shortage this fall, and a WAGM-TV news story on the topic drew the attention of NMCC and Region 5 EMS. Shortly after the news story Mims met with NMCC Workforce Development Coordinator Ed Wright, EMS Department Chair Andrew Gagnon, and several Patten town selectmen. Once they agreed on the scope of the training, Mims worked to secure a location, and was able to come to an agreement with the local fire station. 

Gagnon estimates that NMCC’s 15-week Basic EMT training would typically cost each student approximately $2,000, between the six credit hours, books, and fees. He’s hoping that by waiving all costs associated with the course, more local people will feel compelled to join. “We’d like to see any individuals who want to help their community sign up,” Gagnon said. “The goal is to train enough people to sustain the service in Patten. People looking for full-time, part-time, or volunteer work can all help.” Participants do not need to live in Patten, but can come from any surrounding area including Island Falls or Houlton. 

Graduates of the 15-week training will be eligible to sit for state and national licensure. Mims is working with local employers to encourage them to offer flexibility to employees who sign up for EMS work. “Employers are ensuring me that they will honor our agreement, and make sure people’s jobs are taken care of. We need to get the whole community involved, everyone helping each other,” Mims said. “That way, in the long run, everyone benefits.”

In a statement earlier this year, announcing NMCC’s plans to build a new EMS simulation lab, College President Tim Crowley said, “Healthcare in rural areas of Maine is at a precipice. Due to limited resources, financial and human, many healthcare facilities find themselves having to make tough decisions regarding the types of services and care to be provided. Emergency care has already reached that level of concern.” The new simulation lab is currently under construction and with plans for completion this summer. 

“It is imperative that if the towns want this major health care issue resolved, that they work together and look out for each others’ best interest,” Mims stated.

To learn more about EMS training opportunities in Patten please contact NMCC Workforce Development Coordinator Ed Wright at 207-760-1197. To learn about NMCC’s EMS program please visit nmcc.edu.