INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Years ago, Josh Syrett was working aboard a private yacht in Florida when a contractor refitting the vessel suffered a heart attack. He didn't know how to respond, much less treat the victim.
That incident is what led him to become an Emergency Medical Technician. But the desire to enter the profession probably first arose when he was a boy growing up in Colchester, an historic city in southeast England.
"It runs in my family," said Syrett. "My grandfather worked for the local fire department for 30 years and my mum served as a dispatcher before becoming a nurse at a hospital, where today she's treating patients on a COVID-19 unit. I look up to both and I love the stories they share."
Syrett and his bride, Kaylee, moved back to Indianapolis and he began his work with Franciscan Health and the Beech Grove Fire Department (BGFD) as part of Franciscan's Student Applied Guided Experience (SAGE). No two shifts or emergency calls are the same.
"Each patient brings a new challenge to my skills," said Syrett. "The human body is amazing in how it works and just the slightest change can make someone sick."
More than a year ago, Syrett began a journey to advance his emergency clinical training. He enrolled in the paramedic program at Franciscan Health in Indianapolis. It is an intense 14-month program, mixing both classroom instruction with more than 1,000 hours of rotations in various hospital units outside of the emergency department. Students learn IV therapy, pharmacology, respiratory emergencies, cardiology, advanced airway management, trauma and patient assessment care, and responding to obstetrical and pediatric care.
Franciscan Health has had a clinical and staffing partnership with BGFD since 2013 and with Shelbyville Fire Department since 2018. These partnerships are mutually beneficial for the hospital and EMS Education, as well as the fire departments.
"These staff members provide care to the citizens of these communities just as the fire department members do, however they are employees of Franciscan Health," said Josee Miller, clinical coordinator and EMS educator for Franciscan Health. "This provides a cost-effective staffing model for the fire departments and also enables us to hire and train people to be field instructors/preceptors for our EMS students, which allows for a high-quality field clinical experience for our students."
Training during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, to say the least.
"When COVID became prevalent here in Indianapolis, some EMTs and paramedics actually faced some hostility for being gowned up, wearing masks and using other personal protective equipment," Syrett said. "Then we faced other challenges such as communicating with patients and conducting assessments, which is especially hard if a patient is hard of hearing."
Syrett has high praise for the Beech Grove Fire Department and Franciscan Health EMS staff. Both teams make sure Syrett and his colleagues are up to date on how to care for patients who may have the coronavirus.
Despite the risks and ever-changing challenges, the road to become a certified paramedic is now within Syrett's grasp.
"I really enjoy what I've been learning and having such varied shifts," he said, "that and the camaraderie at the firehouse and the people I work with at the fire department and Franciscan."
To learn more about the paramedic training program in Indianapolis and other programs offered by Franciscan Health, visit https://www.franciscanhealth.org/about-us/health-professionals.