OSU-OKC paramedicine students help behind the scenes at Cowboy football games in Stillwater
STILLWATER – Boone Pickens Stadium on game day is full of activity. Some endeavors are obvious – like the Cowboys advancing the football on the field and the orange-clad crowd cheering – but others are nearly invisible.
At every game, medical staff stand ready behind the scenes to assist anyone in distress. Among them are students and faculty from the paramedicine program at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City.
The game-day experience provides an opportunity for students to learn about the paramedic’s role in responding to everything from a heart attack in the crowd to a mass casualty incident, said Justin Hunter, OSU-OKC paramedicine program director and associate professor.
Students participate in 600 to 700 hours of clinicals before graduating, Hunter said. Most of those hours take place in emergency rooms, ambulances and psychiatric facilities.
The stadium experience offers something different. Any big event – a political rally, a concert, a sporting event – always has paramedics on the scene, Hunter said. That’s because they can respond to an incident much quicker than someone who would be dispatched from the outside following a 911 call.
“When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, most people whose lives were saved were because paramedics were so near,” he said.
Paramedicine students at the OSU games get to learn how university staffy, Stillwater Fire Department, ambulance service, law enforcement and others work together to plan for the day – where everyone will be stationed, who will respond to what, Hunter said.
Six to 12 students and one or two OSU-OKC instructors go to each game.
“Overall, the goal is to prepare us for mass casualty incidents,” Chris Syms said. “Good planning, good communication. It’s something we have to train for.”
Syms, 43, an emergency medical technician with the Woodward County ambulance service, is in his final semester of paramedic training at OSU-OKC. He has been able to do his classroom work online and many of his clinical hours in Enid and northwest Oklahoma.
His Cowboys’ game clinicals were Oct. 31 and Nov. 13. Both were slow days for medical emergencies where he was stationed, but other students had some patient contacts like chest pains and falls.
Syms became a full-time EMT five years ago after working with a volunteer fire department for a dozen years.
Being an EMT is required to get into the OSU-OKC paramedicine program. Fifty to 75 students are in the program at any time and those who finish have a 100% job placement rate, Hunter said.
“The national supply of paramedics has gone down, and the national demand is going through the roof,” he said.
Graduates are paid a beginning salary of $50,000 to $60,000 and many also get a signing bonus, Hunter said.
Syms said he became an EMT because he likes to help others and he is learning how to help people even more through the paramedicine program.
“It’s a good career choice,” he said.
Go to https://osuokc.edu/ems for more information about the program.