(L to R) Dustin Woodson and Charles Helm practice their IV techniques on a mannequin as part of their paramedic training at Cherokee Nation EMS.
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Cherokee Nation’s Emergency Medical Services paramedic training program is now considered among the best in the industry.
The Cherokee Nation is one of the first and only tribes to receive a five-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs for teaching paramedics to the highest national standards. The accreditation runs through March 31, 2020.
“We are the only training center in this part of Oklahoma that offers paramedic training, so our goal is to offer the highest level of education to our students,” said Mark Bighorse, EMS training supervisor. “We believe the standards of the accreditation process help us do that.”
CAAHEP is a nonprofit, accrediting organization established in 1994. They currently accredit more than 2,100 entry-level education programs within 26 health science professions.
To obtain accreditation, the Cherokee Nation EMS had to submit its teaching curriculum, study plans and completing interviews with the accrediting agency and attend required conferences.
Cherokee Nation’s EMS is one of 10 Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic programs accredited in Oklahoma. Its ambulance services ranks in the top 1 percent in the country. Cherokee Nation EMS trains up to 20 students per year for the tribe and outside agencies.
“We are excited to receive the accreditation because it allows us to continue with our program,” said Dana Caviness, program director. “Having the accreditation holds our program to a higher standard and makes us more competent.”
The paramedic training program lasts for 18 months. This year’s program began in February 2015. Students are expected to graduate in April 2016. After completing the program, they will receive a certificate that gives them the opportunity to take the national registry test for paramedics.
Cherokee Nation EMS consists of paramedic ambulance services, affiliated with a 911 communications staff and a certified training center. It currently employs about 60 staff members and keeps four ambulances active at all times. Cherokee Nation EMS has a coverage area of more than 1,000 square miles and responded to more than 4,700 emergency calls in 2014.