The National EMS Academy in Lafayette is celebrating 15 years of training first-responders, but it's not dwelling in the past.
"As EMS professionals become more valuable in more health care settings and industries, (like) oil and gas, the demand for them is going to grow exponentially," NEMSA Director Kirk Lacour said Thursday at an event marking the 15th anniversary of the academy.
Acadian Companies and South Louisiana Community College partnered in 2003 to open the Lafayette academy to meet the demands of a national paramedic shortage.
Today, it trains emergency medical professionals — EMTs, paramedics and medics — at five sites across the state and is moving into more, thanks to technology and a lot of hard work.
Lacour said his staff has been working for a year on a hybrid course that combines online instruction with hands-on skills and clinical components. Students can begin taking the course in spring 2019.
It is one of the answers to his question, "How will we meet the demand of the next 15 years?"
The academy also uses distance learning and virtual reality to teach students across the state.
Students can ask the VR patient questions, take vital signs and perform treatments through the program, a first step before moving on to mannequins and later live people pretending to be patients, education coordinator Paul Duplantis said.
The mannequins can be found in simulation rooms at the academy. They're set up as a bedroom, living room, office — places an EMT might respond to a patient in need — and an ambulance and hospital room, which help students to practice transferring patients and treating them in such settings.
"I don't think people understand how progressive and important a partnership like this is," SLCC Chancellor Natalie Harder said. "The individuals teaching are from Acadiana. They are teaching their family, friends and neighbors how to save lives. Then those family, friends and neighbors go out and save lives of our family, friends and neighbors."