HGTC adapts after school closures put the paramedic program at a ‘grinding halt’

Georgetown County News

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – With the pandemic halting in-person learning for the rest of the school year in South Carolina, technical schools and colleges are having to make changes to their lesson plans.

On a normal day, you may see up to 12 students in Horry Georgetown Technical College’s simulation lab for the paramedic program in Myrtle Beach, but now, only two to three students are allowed in the lab due to social distancing requirements brought on by the coronavirus.

“Stopping of having in-person classes pretty much put the program at a grinding halt,” said paramedic program coordinator Scott Cyganiewicz.

Usually, the sounds of the hands-on learning experience can be heard, through the hallways of HGTC. But now, you’ll find only two to three students practicing their skills to be a paramedic in the lab at a time due to Governor Henry McMaster’s order to maintain social distancing.

“It’s a big change for me,” said paramedic program student Kelsea Johnson. “I can’t speak for a lot of students, but online classes is very different than what you originally signed up with, being in a skills session.”

It means students who would’ve graduated next week, may have to wait.

“The students weren’t able to finish their capstone ambulance ride time which they need as a graduation component, and then we need to do some in-person skills review in prepping for their national certification exam, so we weren’t able to do that,” said Cyganiewicz.

Kelsea Johnson plans to graduate on time, but others who are also given the option to complete the skills part of the program until later, may not graduate until June or after.

“Without practicing those skills as much as you want to, your confidence might not be where you want it to be when you need to do the testing,” she said.

A written and practical exam are required to become a paramedic, but now the national registry which certifies paramedics says the written exam is enough to certify them.

“If they completed the requirements and they meet the accreditation requirements, then we’re moving them forward and graduating them, so we’re not holding up just one individual,” said Cyganiewicz.

Horry County Fire Rescue has partnered with HGTC for years for the program, and they’re looking forward to having ten paramedics be able to graduate this year, despite the pandemic’s changes.

“We were kind of wondering how it’s going to conclude, and we’re really happy that they decided to continue the program and get to the point of graduation,” said HCFR spokesperson Tony Casey.

“Unfortunately, being a paramedic feels like one of those things where you have to run calls before you feel like you can do them, like the skills to your best ability, but we do have good teachers here,” said Johnson.

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