ORANGE PARK – Students at St. Johns River State College concentrating on four fields of study have returned to walking the halls of the Workforce Building, the newest digs on campus.
Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Medical Technician, Paramedic and Medical Assisting students will enter their second year of study at the recently-renovated, state-of-the-art facility, which has already exceeded the needs of students.
Getting the upgraded building up and running was a process that didn’t come without challenges, either. Construction broke ground shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and delays followed. The building is now finished, and the process was worth it.
The building’s completion was a major milestone because it will save local students time-draining commutes to and from the St. Augustine and Palatka campuses. It will also provide them with a comprehensive medical education.
Just ask Ricky Webb, Director of EMS Programs. Webb has been in charge of the college’s operation for nearly 11 years and he’s excited with the completed project.
“The (renovated) building looks completely different and offers so many more amenities and resources,” he said.
Webb said that the additional equipment, space and resources will not only provide convenience for students but also allow them to finish their coursework and enter the professional workforce, where they will trade studying for lifesaving in an industry that has recently witnessed a spike in demand post-COVID, he said.
Michelle Sjogren, Assistant Vice Principal for Institutional Advancement and Strategic Communication, agreed.
“We’re very well equipped,” she said.
Webb recently led a tour of the Workforce Building. The once-cramped building boasts dedicated sections for the various medicinal disciplines offered by the college, including an area for EMS training focusing on paramedics.
One recently installed item was a “presser,” an interactive medical training board for students who actively follow a patient situation. Here, those students will be asked to make suggestions and offer solutions for caring for that person.
In the same classroom, three “pods” eerily resemble actual hospital rooms, each containing dummy “patients” that sit in hospital beds. If that’s not enough, an elevated ambulance bay with room for one emergency vehicle sits under a covered metal room at the back of the building, which allows students to practice in rain or shine.
An additional asset is the ambulance bay, which allows students at St. Johns to practice “situations” in real-time. Ambulances route to campus so that the future angels can conduct the “procedures.” In these simulated instances, “patients” undergo a number of “ailments,” such as strokes, heart attacks and more.
When an ambulance brings a dummy to the bay, the students get to work. “We’re going to be able to work groups of students in a way that (simulates) a real-life situation from the hospital,” Webb said.
Previously, it was still possible, but not as convenient during this time of year, with torrential downpours and heat waves. Now, students can focus, rain or shine.
The enhanced building further enhances the learning experience in what interactive load of coursework for medical students, who visit Baptist Medical Center Clay, Baptist Medical Center South, Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville and complete ambulance “ride-alongs,” where students go in the field to witness and participate in real medical emergencies alongside professionals.
The building could be a boon for the college, especially if more prospective students see the improvements.
“Once (the building) is seen, and more people are able to recognize the space and equipment here, it could be a huge asset to our program,” Webb said.