Pulling double duty

Published 7:34 pm Monday, July 19, 2010

Paramedic Elizabeth Beatty pulled double duty at an emergency medical services conference hosted in Suffolk this weekend.

A supervisor with Medical Transport, a division of Sentara, Beatty needed to take a few classes for continuing education credits — a requirement of all paramedics and EMTs.

However, she also taught a class on renal emergencies during the three-day conference.

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The Tidewater Emergency Medical Services EMS Educational Expo was hosted by the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue and sponsored by Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System, Tidewater Emergency Medical Services Council and Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services. It was funded in part by a grant from the Virginia Office of EMS.

“It’s a nice, smaller environment,” Beatty said. “Great classes, and it’s convenient.”

About 75 students took part in the conference, choosing from classes with topics ranging from head trauma and hyperthermia to drug abuse and disability awareness. The students came from all over Virginia, and one hailed from as far away as Michigan.

Beatty chose classes geared toward trauma and pediatrics because, she said, because she tries to focus on something different at each conference.

“This year, it’s trauma and pediatrics,” she said during a break in Friday night’s sessions.

All emergency medical services professionals must take continuing education courses to be recertified. For emergency medical technicians, 36 hours every four years meets the standard. At the more advanced paramedic level, 72 hours of classes must be completed every three years.

“It’s a great way to get your continuing ed hours,” Beatty said.

Beatty’s students in her renal emergencies class learned things they will be likely to put to good use. The mid-Atlantic region, she said, is widely known for its high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, two of the main causes of renal failure.

Couple that with the fact that Western Tidewater’s rural nature makes it difficult to travel to treatment centers, and many people do not receive treatment for kidney trouble until they dial 911, Beatty said.

“By that time, they’re critically ill,” she said, adding that about 20 percent of Virginia’s dialysis patients live in Hampton Roads. “They require very specialized care.”

The course was an important inclusion in this weekend’s agenda, because specific renal emergencies are not covered in basic emergency services curriculums, Beatty said.

Laura Walker, with the Tidewater EMS Council, was responsible for choosing many of the classes that would be offered during the symposium. She tried to choose mostly Category 1 — or required — classes, and cater to both advanced and basic levels.

“We had an idea of what the participants were looking for,” she said. “From year to year, we get suggestions of what they’d like to see.”