Students taking paramedic training would gain a new ally -- the Ventura County Fire Department -- under a plan that goes before supervisors next week.
County Fire Chief Bob Roper is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve an internship program that would allow paramedic students to respond to medical emergencies under the supervision of trained firefighter-paramedics.
Students would live in fire stations for 24-hour shifts and go out on calls with emergency squads. The on-the-job experience is required as part of a one-year training program offered by Ventura College.
Roper said there is always a demand for new paramedics because turnover in the field is high.
"They just get burned out after a while," the fire chief said. "That's why it's important to support what Ventura College is doing. It's the only educator offering these courses in this county."
Though they wouldn't be paid, the internships would give students the real-life experience they need before getting licensed, said Steve Tobias, dean of health at Ventura College.
The city of Ventura's Fire Department has offered internships for several years, as have several of the county's private ambulance companies, he said. They work hand in hand with the college, which started the paramedic program four years ago.
"Without internships, there would be no program," Tobias said.
Roper said the county can accommodate three interns at a time. Field experience is not allowed until students have had six months of academic work, Tobias said.
Even then, they will be closely supervised by trained paramedics employed by the Fire Department. Students must complete 20 shifts before they can graduate, Tobias said.
The program will not cost the county anything. Students provide their own uniforms and the college district covers their liability insurance, Roper said.
About 30 students complete the Ventura College courses each year, Tobias said.
Paramedics are trained to administer intravenous drugs, operate cardiac equipment and perform other advanced lifesaving techniques.
A student must be certified as an emergency medical technician before being admitted to the program.
At least one supervisor said he favors the plan.
"It sounds like a worthy program," said Supervisor John Flynn. "Anything that promotes public safety is worthy. For the care of our people, it's a necessity."