Cadet EMT program at Nashoba wins state waiver

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BOLTON – The Cadet EMT program at Nashoba Regional High School has its waiver again.

The waiver is a technical thing, but it is needed for younger students in the program to qualify for certifications.

They do thorough training and testing, but because the high school students are younger than 18, a state waiver is needed.

Their age may not matter so much to those they help as part of the Bolton EMT program when they arrive to offer medical assistance and support EMTs. But regulations have been an issue for the past year as the program sought to keep the waiver.

“The state Office of Emergency Medical Services has granted the waiver request for the Cadet EMT program,” Town Administrator Don Lowe told selectmen at their meeting Thursday night (Jan. 13), just hours after getting the news.

“We have been successful in that pursuit,” Lowe said, crediting those who worked on it, including Fire Chief Jeffrey Legendre and State Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow).

He said in meetings with officials, including Marylou Sudders, secretary of Health and Human Services, and commissioners, local supporters including Hogan were able to detail the benefits of the program.

“They were very receptive to our presentation,” Lowe said of the state regulators who needed to approve the waiver. The exemption had been in place for years and allowed the model program to supplement the local EMT capability as well as give students an educational option that has led many to their eventual careers.

The waiver allows cadets aged 16½ to 18 to take the exam if they have passed all the necessary tests.

“It takes us back to where we were before,” Lowe said.

The waiver is effective retroactively from November 2021 for three years. The previous waiver was not renewed in November 2020 and started an effort to continue the program, which has been operating at Nashoba for 32 years.

After Lowe credited others for the effort, Lowe was also praised for his efforts by selectmen.

“I know you put a lot of work in,” Selectman Bob Czekanski said.

Legendre himself was interested in the program long before he became fire chief. But when he found out about it in 1992 as a high school student, he could not convince his parents to let him "choice in" with the commute from Uxbridge, he said.

“It’s built a reputation,” Legendre said Friday of the Nashoba program.

When the renewal did not go through, the work started to get the waiver, working with the state agency and officials.

“It was quite a feat,” Legendre said. “It’s an anomaly across the state.”

He noted that Bolton is “the only town that has this waiver. It is not a common thing.”

With the waiver in place, the students are looking to catch up since there was a year in which students could not advance to the certification.

“We’re at a crossroads now to reinforce the education piece,” Legendre said, referring to the new ALS (Advanced Life Support) the department is now offering.

The enhancement benefits patients, but also offers greater education options for students involved in the program.

Bolton’s paramedics are now interacting with the students and seeing them grow over the three years of the program, Legendre said.

Before Bolton ALS service, paramedics from other communities might come on board during a transport and wonder what the students were doing as part of the response. “Now they are our staff.”

Changing policies are part of the adjustments. That has included solving the complications of transportation for students responding to a scene, for instance.

He said the program worked with the fire department, town officials and boards and Lowe “to keep this moving forward.”

Making it work involved “just getting it in front of the people that needed it,” and it was the right place at the right time, he said.

Legendre said the students are “held to the same standards as working members of this department.

“For a teenager, that’s a really big deal.”

He noted he is seeing the fourth class graduate since he became chief.

“Everybody involved wants this program to succeed,” with a collaboration between the school and town.

“We’re all in. It’s a benefit to the department, the school, the town and especially the department,” Legendre said.

He said it is a good base for any student committed to the program. Many of the 24 students in the program may find themselves, like their predecessors, in medical or related fields as they turn their experience into a career.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Cadet EMT program at Nashoba wins state waiver

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