The Pennington First Aid Squad in curly text

Fall 2008 EMT Commencement Address

by Julie Aberger

Delivered by Julie Aberger at the commencement exercise at the Hopewell Township Municipal building on November 15, 2008.

     I'm Julie Aberger, director of the Pennington First Aid Squad Training Site and I'd like to welcome everyone to our EMT graduation today especially our students, their families and friends as well as our instructors and guests. Guests today include: Hopewell Twp Mayor Vanessa Sandom, Hopewell Twp Councillman Jim Burd, Pennington Boro Mayor Anthony Persichilli, Pennington Boro Council President Weed Tucker, Hopewell Twp Police Department Captain George Meyer, Captain Hopewell Twp PD, and Eugene Dunworth, Pennington Boro administrator.

     First & foremost, I'd like the 2008 fall EMT-B class of the Pennington First Aid Squad Training Site to stand, turn around and be congratulated by everyone in this room today. Ladies and gentlemen, these are the 33 students who did it! Most of them will be joining the volunteer ranks in many squads across New Jersey.

     I'd also like to site a few statistics. This is the 12th EMT class that the Pennington First Aid Squad Training Site has produced in 11 years. We have sent more than 320 students to take the state's EMT exam. Most have passed and are riding with volunteer squads across the state.

     But an education is only as good as its teachers and I believe this training site has the best. Not only are they outstanding instructors, but they're also outstanding EMTs and paramedics. They're vibrant instructors as they not only teach, but they practice what they teach, riding with squads in their hometown communities or as paid providers for hospitals.

     I'd like to recognize each EMT instructor and ask them to stand: lead instructor Cindy Orlandi, course coordinator Dan Boone, long-time loyal instructors Linda Silver, Dr. Alice Freeman, Debbie Gorzycki, and our newest instructors and medics Bil Rosen and Jamie Chebra.

     Today marks the culmination of the Pennington First Aid Squad Training Site's EMT-Basic fall course. As you well know, your course began in early September and ended today: 11 weeks. Classes met twice a week and most weeks, on Saturdays as well. A lot of you missed dinners, football games, parties, and homelife in order to honor your commitment to becoming an EMT.

     These students progressed through a 110-hour US Department of Transportation National Curriculum EMT-B core, and spent an additional ten hours of practical time riding on squad ambulances. You learned a lot: You now know how to assess and treat a patient, what to do if someone is having a heart attack or a stroke and even how to deliver a baby!

     Getting there wasn't easy. The reading alone was extensive; the EMT-B book consists of 35 chapters, 7 modules and almost a thousand pages of reading. Students were also responsible for quizzes with each chapter and a 150-question test with each module.

     Many still think of emergency medical services (or EMS) as "first aid." First aid was primarily swoop and scoop - little treatment was provided on scene and first aiders (the men in the white coats & hats) picked up the patient, put him on a canvas stretcher and hauled him to the hospital as fast as possible.

     Today first aid has evolved to a more sophisticated level of medicine. Ask these students - most of them were amazed that the course was so tough, that caring for patients in an emergency required so much study and practice. That doing a patient assessment meant memorizing a long list of steps guaranteed to catch any life threats and treating them right there on scene. That assisting a patient taking his medication encompassed hours of drilling on drug indications, contraindictions, doses, etc. That recognizing signs and symptoms of illness or injury entailed anatomy and physiology. Every hour of class time necessitated at least two hours of study.

     During the last two and a half months this class worked very hard. They were diligent in their reading, their questions, their interest, their enthusiasm and their active participation in class. The instructors have seen amazing growth, not only in competence, but also in confidence. You've come a LONG way!

     What happens next? Most of you are already members of a volunteer squad and have begun riding You've used the NJ EMT Training Fund to finance this course. You now have a debt which can be paid off simply by continuing to ride in your community. I ask you to keep your word and remember to honor that commitment.

     Don't forget this class and the ground it broke for you. You are on your way to becoming medical professionals and the last two and a half months is just the beginning. Your EMT instructors and I hope we have raised you right and that you uphold the values of the class.

     Be humble. Be competent. Think before you speak. Put the patient first and don't forget your EMS roots.