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COA eyeing EMS degree

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Friday, October 6, 2017

A College of The Albemarle committee that reviews curriculum offerings at the college has backed a plan by the Health Sciences Department to seek state approval for an associate degree program in emergency medical sciences.

The Policy and Planning Committee of the college’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to support applying for an EMS curriculum program. The committee’s recommendation will go to the COA Board of Trustees, which typically approves committee recommendations.

If approved by the trustees the application for the degree program will go to the State Office of Community Colleges.

COA currently offers EMS classes on a continuing education basis, but the Health Sciences Department is proposing the college offer an associate in applied science degree in EMS along with a diploma program and a pathway for high school students. The plan includes a “bridge” program for those with extensive credits through the continuing education program to earn the AAS degree in an abbreviated timeframe.

Robin Harris, who heads health sciences programs at COA, told the committee at its Sept. 27 meeting that the college had an EMS curriculum in the early 2000s but it struggled with low enrollment.

What’s different now, Harris said, is that there are more paid EMS positions in the area and the EMS program at the college has strong leadership from a full-time director.

The college tried to operate the program previously with a part-time director and that didn’t work well, Harris said.

Although the plan is to headquarter the program at the planned Public Safety Center in Currituck County, the EMS program will have a presence on all of COA’s campuses, Harris said.

The two-year program will train people to work as paramedics and will prepare people for service in supervisory roles, she said.

Trustee Joe Peel, who co-chairs the committee, said he was concerned about the number of part-time positions in area EMS agencies and wants to be sure graduates of the program will be able to get full-time employment. He said he’s troubled by the number of local people who are only able to find part-time work and struggle financially because of that. 

Harris said the employer survey that the college conducted indicates that full-time jobs are available.

The committee reviewed results of an interested survey that was conducted regarding the EMS degree program. More than 68 percent of the 196 respondents indicated they were either “somewhat interested” or “very interested” in the program.

The survey also showed that 85 percent of the 31 area agencies that responded indicated graduates of an accredited EMS program would be strong candidates for employment and 84 percent said graduates of such a program would likely be hired for full-time employment.

In addition, 69 percent of employer respondents said graduates of an accredited associate degree program could expect to be hired at a starting salary of more than $15 an hour.

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