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By Andi Bourne

Volunteers Expand Training, Get Medical Endorsements


Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Once they finish their clinical hours and requirements Shelly Johnson (left), Bill Bogardus and Donna Bogardus will be EMT Basics with Endorsements.

SEELEY LAKE – Three volunteers with the Seeley Lake Rural Fire District have passed their written and practical exams for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Basic with Endorsements. After completing their clinical requirements, they will be able to provide medications, start and maintain intravenous (IV) fluid administration, monitor patients with devices including the LifePak® 12 cardiac monitor and glucometer and provide advanced airway management including the use of King and ETT tubes.

Currently Seeley Lake Fire Chief Bob Vanden Heuvel is the most highly qualified medical support on the department working as a critical care paramedic. Volunteer Kristy Pohlman got her EMT Basic with Endorsements in 2011 and became a state registered Advanced EMT Jan. 1, 2015.

Following their clinicals, Shelly Johnson, Bill Bogardus and Donna Bogardus will add to the medical expertise at the department as Basic EMTs with endorsements.

"This training really enhances their ability to diagnosis and treat patients and provide a more advanced level of care when needed," said Vanden Heuvel. "Now that we have more qualified EMTs on board, Kristy, Bill, Shelly and Donna can pass what they learned onto the current and future members of the department."

When the department heard about Missoula Emergency Services Incorporated (MESI) offering the EMT Basic with Endorsement class, Vanden Heuvel said the Bogarduses expressed interest. He then offered it to the rest of the volunteers emphasizing that they needed, "the time and desire to go to the next level" of medical training.

After working with MESI's Education Coordinator and Outreach and Training Specialist Kathy Andress, Vanden Heuvel was able to secure three spots in the class for the volunteers. The Seeley Lake Fire District Board paid for the training and the majority of the travel costing the district more than $3,500.

Classes started Sept. 28 and the final exam and practicals were completed by Dec. 2. The Bogarduses and Johnson attended class twice a week from 1-5 p.m. They estimated they studied an average of two hours per night.

After passing all their exams, the three volunteers are now working on their clinical requirements including a minimum of 100 hours in the emergency room (ER) and 60 hours with the MESI ambulance for the field internship. They have several clinical skill requirements and patient assessments that they must complete before they will be signed off.

Johnson has been volunteering with the department for more than five years and has been an EMT for the past two years. While she has been a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) for 18 years she decided she did not want to work at a clinic and she did not want to have to commute to work.

"I love the medical field. It's my passion and I've done it forever," said Johnson. "I figured if I can't do it in the clinics I might as well do it as an EMT."

For Johnson, the biggest challenge through the process has been juggling studying, work and home.

"It's been very challenging and time consuming," said Johnson. "However, now I can take better care of patients and I know what to look for. It's been a real confidence builder for me."

Johnson also looks forward to being able to help take some of the load off of Chief Vanden Heuvel so he does not have to respond to every call and being able to provide better care to the community and the patients. "Having more training makes it better for everyone," said Johnson.

The Bogardus family has been involved in the department for the past four years. Bill started with the department after being asked to serve as the chaplain. Once he started as chaplain he decided to work as a volunteer as well.

"I knew they had a need so I wanted to be more a part of things," said Bill. "I went to all the trainings anyway [as the chaplain]."

Donna started out three and a half years ago with the department in the Domestic Advocacy Program. After being recruited by Bill, she also decided to take a more active role as a medical volunteer.

"Neither of us had any medical background prior to joining the department," said Donna. "We just like to help people."

The Bogarduses involved four of their five children in the cadet program; their youngest was not old enough. Now their daughter Monica just got her EMT license and hopes to become a paramedic. Their son John has finished his EMT class and is studying for the test.

Bill and Donna agreed that the most challenging thing about being a volunteer is the interruption to family life.

"We want our kids to be concerned about others," said Donna. "Sometimes you set aside what you want to do to help someone else do what you should do. We felt like it was important to teach them not to be self-centered."

They completed their EMT training in 2013. They pursued the advanced training because they wanted to be better prepared to help patients in the area and they never feel like they know enough.

Bill felt that 80 percent of the training was an in-depth review of basic EMT skills. However, the class went into much more depth about human anatomy and physiology. This helps them understand more of the why behind symptoms and issues and help them provide a better diagnosis.

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

"Bob and Kristy were the only ones that could start at IV," said Donna. "They would have to go to Missoula [or meet MESI] because they have to hand that patient off to a higher level of care. This will save MESI from having to come and meet us so often."

Bill has enjoyed the patient interaction through his clinical work. Because the Bogarduses take calls together, Bill drove and Donna worked with the patients.

Visiting with patients is also Donna's favorite part of working in the medical field. She has also enjoyed being challenged and the "ah-ha moments" when something has been taught over and over and she finally understands it.

"It changes your perspective on life," said Donna. "If you are having a down day, just go work a shift in the ER."

"This is a huge commitment and I'm very proud of these guys," said Vanden Heuvel. "It will really help our systems once we get the new ambulance."


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