Gold Star Program
American River College
Emergency Medical Services-Paramedic
American River College (ARC) earned Gold Star recognition under the Strong Workforce Stars program for its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program, which includes Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and Emergency Medical Technicians-Paramedic (EMTP) options. The Gold Star is the Strong Workforce Stars’ highest recognition and is awarded to career education programs that meet each of three criteria related to student outcomes that help move the needle on workforce development. Specifically, students who participate in this program boost their earnings by 127%, 95% attain the regional living wage, and 100% report securing a job closely related to field of study.
Students experience employment success because the program focuses on connecting theory to practice. According to EMS Director Dr. Grant Goold, the program’s primary goal is to focus on real-world applications. The EMS curriculum is structured so that students learn a theory and skill set and practice that skill in their lab sections. They then utilize a high-fidelity simulation to reinforce learning. Throughout this process, students self-reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Peer review is also used throughout these sessions.
In the last semester of the program, and prior to their internship, students complete a capstone course. Two-thirds of this course is dedicated to field readiness assessment, effectively preparing participants for their field internship and strengthening their employability. The course simulates the students’ internship experiences in a controlled setting where the instructor can choose the types of patients. During the internship, students are trained by preceptors, who are employers from different EMS agencies; preceptors collaborate with a faculty liaison, who is informed if students have any challenges. If needed, the student is brought back to campus to address any gaps in learning or practice.
ARC also bridges the classroom and the workplace by filling the faculty liaison role with preceptors and by engaging adjunct faculty who actively work in the field. These faculty walk students through current cases and answer their questions with authentic context. This dual role fosters a real stake in students’ success, since as active EMS technicians and paramedics, their reputation is also on the line.
Lastly, Dr. Goold described the EMS program as being honest about “what the industry is really like.” He explains that every industry has a personality, and the success of an EMS professional depends on whether the person fits the industry. The faculty help students develop necessary EMS personality traits such as leadership. When students do not inherently have some of these traits, faculty will practice scenarios and techniques with them to strengthen these skills. By the time future employers evaluate these students, their professional personality aligns with that of the EMS industry.