In 2005, I was 28 years old and living at a volunteer fire station in Black Butte Ranch, Oregon. In return for living at the station, the department was paying for my Fire Structural Science and Paramedic education at a nearby Oregon community college. I’d always wanted to be a firefighter/paramedic. Already an EMT-B, I had finished my Fire Science and Paramedic prerequisites my first year and was looking forward to my second year of training.
Unfortunately, my school then suspended the Paramedic Program because of administrative changes. One term off became two and was quickly becoming three. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.
One of the firefighter/paramedics at the Black Butte Ranch station was a native Texan and an Aggie. He suggested that I look into the 10-week, fast-track EMT-Paramedic course offered by TEEX. I needed to move forward quickly, so I researched costs and discovered that TEEX not only offered the least expensive program available (even considering the move to Texas for the duration of the course), but would also put my career goals back on track.
When he first told me about the program, I remember thinking, "There's absolutely no way I'm moving to Texas." For an Oregonian, let me just say that Texas was different and took some adjustment. First, Oregon doesn’t have the humidity, heat, lightning storms or flash floods that Texas does. Also, many of the instructors, to my Yankee ears, had an accent that took some getting used to. Plus, everyone says “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” all the time. I quickly found out that if I didn’t incorporate those phrases into my everyday vocabulary, it would possibly come across as rude or disrespectful. And the last thing I wanted to do was inadvertently insult someone.
Going into the program, I knew was it was going to be tough, but I didn't realize just how tough it would be. However, there was always great support staff there to help me through it. They were always willing to spend extra time outside of class to answer any of my questions or to address my concerns.
During the hospital internship part of the program, I was able to go online and schedule my hours and pick from the hospital departments available for work. This flexibility in scheduling was a huge factor in allowing me to specifically tailor my internship. I chose ESD-1 in Houston, hoping to gain a lot of experience through a broad range of calls. After comparing stories with other paramedics later back home in Oregon, I think I had more than a wild internship!
Recently, I was comparing notes with a friend who attended the TEEX course after I did. He’d picked my brain before he went, and I’d told him that TEEX had an extremely demanding curriculum. But I’d also told him that it was possible to make it through as long as you were willing and had the self-discipline to study every day. After he completed the course, he agreed with me that it was difficult, but worth all of the hard work.
By using the TEEX 10-week fast-track Paramedic course, I was riding as a paramedic 10 months earlier than if I would have graduated from my original Oregon program on time. Now, I’m working as a paramedic for a strong Oregon ambulance company with 55 years of service and commitment.
I have given TEEX’s information to many EMT-B students here in Oregon who are looking for a way to get a head start on their careers. Hopefully, many more Oregonians will eventually be spending the time and effort to travel to Texas and go through your program.
TEEX, thanks for all the good stress and pressure you put me through to accomplish my goals.
Andy Brookman is a paramedic for an ambulance service in Washington County, Oregon.