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'The future of health care'

Tripp County Ambulance Cadets participate in an emergency training exercise in May. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Macy Olson, a Tripp County Ambulance Cadet, participates in an emergency training exercise in May. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

TRIPP COUNTY, S.D. — The next generation of health care professionals are already testing the job in Tripp County.

Equipped with pagers, 11 Colome and Winner High School students with hopes of pursuing health care careers are getting real-world training as part of the Tripp County Ambulance Cadets program.

The program, implemented in 2013, allows the students to have their own pagers and go on ambulance calls with the local ambulance services when dispatched. They are trained in CPR and basic first-aid, and along with observing the ambulance calls, the cadets often are able to participate in providing care.

To participate, students must be 16 or older and apply by submitting an essay and application. Due to the significant amount of one-on-one training necessary to make the program a success, typically no more than 15 people are admitted to the program annually. Students then stay in the program until they graduate from high school, if they choose to stay involved.

"These cadets are the future of health care in Tripp County," Cadet Director Korie Pravecek said. "The EMTs have been wonderful with those kids, they let them get involved, do tests they can do and their skills allow and really teach them."

And while Gregory County to the east struggles to maintain its three ambulance services due to aging volunteers, Pravecek said Tripp County has already reaped the benefits of training younger volunteers.

At the end of the 2016-17 school year, three members turned 18 and took the EMT certification course and passed, adding two more bodies to the county's roster.

One of those new EMTs, Zane Rohde, is a senior at Colome High School. Still attending classes, Rohde also responds to emergency calls and also serves on the town's fire department. After graduation, Rohde said he hopes to attend diesel technician school, then received his paramedic certification and return to the Colome area.

"A lot of it is the adrenaline rush, but I really enjoy helping people, too," he said. "It's nice to get an idea of what being an EMT is like through the cadet program before you really commit to it."

And maybe most notable, Pravecek said, is the sheer amount of organization, patience and time it takes to be involved in the program. Along with their duties as EMTs in training, the cadets are often called upon to participate in fundraisers and other community events, in an effort to "raise well-rounded individuals," Pravecek said.

Most often, the cadets' calls occur during the school day, and the Colome and Winner high schools have been easy to work with to ensure the process runs smoothly, Pravecek said, allowing cadets to wear their pagers and providing parking spaces close to the schools so they can leave quickly.

But it isn't easy work.

Pravecek said her daughter is a cadet and responded to a call on her 18th birthday during which a patient died.

"It's tough — that was the first time she dealt with a deceased person," Pravecek said. "They learn a lot about dealing with emotional stress through the cadets program, too."

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