SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Southern Maine Community College is getting creative with its EMT classes, to help combat a shortage in the state.
The college has a pilot program called "ESOL to EMT." The idea is to take people from other countries already living in Maine, who speak other languages and already have a medical background, and get them back to work in their field.
“It came about as a community need,” said instructor, Paul Froman.
As a working paramedic, Froman says the need for EMTs who can speak other languages, is ever growing along with the state’s immigrant population.
“There are plenty of people who are immigrating here who don't speak English as a primary language,” said Froman. “So being able to train a line of first responders that are able to speak multiple languages - like we were talking about David who can speak six languages fluently – is definitely a benefit to have in the field.”
David Ngandu was a physician in Africa, before he came to the United States. “Having a class like this gives us more assurance that there is still hope that we can be working, helping people, and making a difference in people's lives,” Ngandu said.
Each student in the class has a medical background that wasn’t recognized when they moved. Here, they’re starting from square one, but Ngandu says it’s a step in the right direction.
“Everybody in here, they are extremely motivated and extremely intelligent, they want to get involved to help. Everyone in here on the first day said they loved medicine because they love helping people and they didn't think they'd be able to do that again here,” said Froman. “Now they feel like they're going to be able to get back into the medical profession and help their community and be productive members of this society.”
An ambulance service based in southern Maine has already committed to interviewing each student who successfully completes the course. North East Mobile Health Services has 15-20 EMT positions to fill this year.