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SouthArk readies new training ambulance

by Marvin Richards | July 18, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.
SouthArk school officials pose in front of the school’s new ambulance trainer vehicle. From left to right are Columbia County Ambulance Service owner Amanda Warren-Newton; SouthArk emergency medical services program director Justin Murphree; SouthArk academic affairs vice president Dr. Stephanie Tully-Dartez; SouthArk president Dr. Bentley Wallace; and SouthArk health sciences dean Caroline Hammond. (contributed)

South Arkansas Community College’s new ambulance trainer is finished and ready to enhance the school’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program.

The ambulance was acquired in partnership with Columbia County Ambulance Service in Magnolia owner Amanda Warren-Newton. The vinyl wrap and artwork on the vehicle that features former SouthArk EMS program graduates was completed by Art Attack Graphics in El Dorado.

“I’ve always wanted an ambulance for the program for several reasons,” Justin Murphree, SouthArk EMS program director said. “Since most likely the EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) students are going to be the ones most likely driving an ambulance, they are responsible for maintenance of the ambulance. EMTs have to make sure the sirens work, the lights work, the blinkers work. They have to make sure no bulbs are blown in the patient compartment. They have to check the oil and transmission fluids and more. We can go over that in a book but you can only do so much with that.”

Murphree, who has been in EMS for 28 years, explained that having a hands-on experience is helpful for students.

“Having this ambulance will give students a hands-on approach on how to operate an ambulance. The next reason I wanted it was for the paramedics aspect of our program,” Murphree said. “When paramedics are working in an ambulance they are securing the head, they’re breathing for the patient, they are suctioning for the patient. With the simulated ambulance trainer that we currently have, I can’t adequately access how the students are doing for airway management and such. But by having this ambulance with a side door that I can stand in, I can better access the students and what they’re doing.

Murphree says he is ecstatic with how all the artwork came out on the ambulance. He says they will use the ambulance for promotional purposes as well to entice people to join the EMS program where they train people in being an EMT and a paramedic. Though this is an actual ambulance, vinyl and artwork had to be specific to not confuse the general public about the actual use of the vehicle.

“It took us close to three months to get the ambulance completed,” Murphree said. “The college president, the Arkansas Department of Health and many people had some say in the design because it is an ambulance trainer. It can’t say certain words like ambulance. It can’t say emergency or 911. It can’t say anything that someone would mistake for an actual ambulance.”

He also hopes this vehicle can be used in conjunction with local high schools to recruit interested 18-year-olds in EMS, something that has been a recent change in El Dorado.

“Recently, the El Dorado Fire Department has lowered the hiring age from 21 to 18,” Murphree explained. “So my goal is to use this at the high school to let them know that. Most seniors are 18 or going to turn 18 that summer, so with the reduced hiring age, we can now be even more proactive with recruitment.”

Murphree said this reduction in hiring age is a welcomed change because when he first started out in EMS, he had to leave El Dorado and go work in Camden because neither ProMed nor the fire station could put anyone below the age of 21 on their insurance.

Murphree said he is so appreciative of the Columbia County Ambulance Service for working with the college.

“They gave us a really nice ambulance,” Murphree said. “It drives well, it has air conditioning which is important in the Arkansas heat. We have a really, really nice ambulance that I am so proud of. I can see at least another decade’s use of this ambulance.”

For more information, visit southark.edu and check out the health services section of their course catalog.

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