July 17, 2013

Special needs focus of EMT training

PLATTSBURGH — Emergency medical technicians across the region have a unique opportunity to gain knowledge on how to respond to patients with special needs.

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and the Clinton County Emergency Medical Services Association have been providing annual training for EMTs on how to work with patients with special needs, a program that has brought a fresh perspective to the region’s emergency responders.

“It’s an idea I had when I first started riding on ambulances,” said Kent Faus, vice president for Clinton County Emergency Medical Services.

He came to realize, he said, that “a lot of people didn’t feel comfortable when on calls for people with special medical challenges. 

“It can be an intimidating situation if you’re not comfortable (dealing with patients with a physical or mental disability).”


Faus had an uncle with a mental disability, a normal guy, he said, with some special needs. When his uncle died in October 2008, the emergency responder took that as a sign to move his idea forward to offer special training on how to care for patients who might require a different kind of approach because of their own conditions.

“EMTs don’t do a lot of training on how to work with patients with special needs,” he said. “We do a whole lot of things with cardiac care, with trauma cases and with certain kinds of disease, but there isn’t a lot of focus on (traumatic brain injury), Alzheimer’s disease or autism.”

Clinton County EMS held its first Special Needs Conference in January 2009, with presentations on working with ARC and Alzheimer’s patients, those with autism-spectrum disorders, along with information on some of the new technologies available at the time for diabetics.

Several dozen EMTs participated in that initial workshop, held at the county’s EMS offices, but the program has grown tremendously since then.

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