When Trevor Chilton was an eight-year-old Cub Scout in DeKalb, the troop toured a DeKalb Fire Station and he, like many little boys before him, was in awe of Big John the Ladder Truck. Twenty-plus years later, he was driving it. Chilton is a Paramedic with the DeKalb Fire Department and an alum of the Kishwaukee College Emergency Medical Services Program.
As a high school student, Chilton knew he wanted to do something but was unsure of his path. He thought a university education was the best option, so he received his A.A. from Kish College and then transferred to NIU, hoping something would eventually catch his eye. Something did: a flyer advertising an internship program with the Sycamore Fire Department. “I felt like I was spinning my wheels and the internship with Sycamore seemed like an opportunity to try something else,” he said. It worked. He soon found himself at the Fire Science Academy in Arlington Heights.
In Sycamore and DeKalb, nearly all career firefighters are also Paramedics and Chilton soon found himself enrolled at Kish again, this time in the EMS program with instructors Steve and Deb (Baert) Ernest. The program begins every fall and students complete it the following August. The Program is currently accepting applications for the next class through May 31, with students receiving notification of acceptance in June; classes begin August 20. Though only one calendar year, it covers a lot of ground with medical trauma topics and hands-on skills.
Chilton explained, “It’s a very intense and fast moving program. It was three nights a week for four hours a night. We covered a variety of topics. They all matter because when someone calls 9-1-1, we have to be ready for anything.” In addition to classroom hours, the Paramedic students have clinical hours in an Emergency Room and a variety of hospital departments as well as ambulance clinical time with local fire departments. Many of the graduates stay local, working with the area Fire Departments and ambulance services.
Steve Ernest has been a working Paramedic and instructor for the Kish program for many years and knows the program is intense, because the job he is preparing the students for is intense, too. He explained, “Paramedics provide the vital services of assessing the situation, determining required medical and life-sustaining procedures, implementing those procedures, communicating with emergency room staff and transporting the patient to the hospital. Our program is rigorous. But being a Paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician is also one of the most fulfilling jobs one can have.”
Under Steve and Deb Ernest’s leadership, the EMS graduating classes regularly post a 100% pass rate on the professional licensing exams. But Ernest added that more people are taking EMT-Basic for purposes other than working as first responders. “Many people take EMT-Basic as a way to explore health care careers – what is it like to work with a patient? How will they handle medical emergencies? The EMS program is a great way to test the waters for nursing, physical therapy or physician assistant before making a commitment – in time and money – to those fields.”
Chilton can attest to the rigor and the excellent preparation for the real-world job of Paramedic. “Steve and Deb run the program with a lot of one-on-one interaction and pull in guest speakers from all around the area who are experts in their specialties. They certainly keep you on your toes.”
Being a first responder, whether as an EMT-Basic or Paramedic, is one of the most fulfilling positions in the workforce. “You come to assist people on what is probably one of the worst days of their lives, and you respond,” Chilton stated. “It is very rewarding and almost like a calling more than a job. I grew up in DeKalb and now I get to serve the city as a Paramedic with the DeKalb Fire Department. I feel like I got lucky.”
The Emergency Medical Technician-Basic and Paramedic Program will begin in Fall 2018; registration is currently in progress. For more information on the programs, contact Deb Ernest, Coordinator of EMS Programs at Kishwaukee College, at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 815-825-9513 or Steve Ernest, EMS Lead Instructor, at email@example.com or at 815-825-9497.