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Q&A with Ken Bartz, Lead EMS Instructor for Southwest Tech

Ken Bartz is the Lead EMS Instructor of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, in Fennimore, Grant County. WORH spoke to Bartz on March  23.


Q: What are the biggest challenges for EMS in rural Wisconsin right now?


Bartz: Everyone is trying to stay ahead with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and inventorying what they have and what is in the area. People are adapting to the changes. Plus, the kids are home from school and that has its challenges. We are all volunteers, so we need to juggle work, kids, and school and responding for our communities.


Q: You teach EMS courses at Southwest Tech. How is that going?


Bartz: The college campus facilities are closed and we are working from home. We’ve switched over to an online format this week. We are efficiently adjusting learning plans to the online format. We are adapting our learning plans to incorporate videos and different things like that. 


Actually, we’ve been evolving to try to get more instruction online before the pandemic started. For recruitment and retention purposes, we’ve been blending courses with online work and face-to-face teaching. We train mainly volunteers in our area. Blending courses is something we started a few years ago because students have busy schedules. They’re able to access content when they are be able to work and they’re working at their own pace when not in the classroom. I feel that we were at an advantage because we were already taking steps in the online direction.


We’re still focused on success, and not just keeping the classes going  to just get them done. Our technical college students are needed right now. Our laboratory technician, allied health, and public safety programs are needed right now. So, it’s important that the training continues.


Q: How are you been adjusting to chaos we are living in?


Bartz: It’s chaos but one thing that has been the silver lining is the resiliency of people of Southwest Wisconsin. We have been living with the challenges of recruiting new students and getting new students into the system. Our volunteer EMS system is constantly going through a recruitment issue. It is important to stay connected to family and friends as well as some sort of work relationship.


Q: You are at home with 3 kids. Has your school district started teaching online?


Bartz: Teachers sent home a lot of work 10 days ago. We are fortunate enough to have Chromebooks at home. The district has done a good job getting resources out and using online platforms as a resource.


Q: Has technology become an issue?


Bartz: It’s not just rural areas that have issue of access to technology. Right now, it seems like most people have a device, but internet access is a concern.


Q: Are you kids bored yet?


Bartz: We live on a farm, so they are as bored as they let themselves to be. When the weather is nice, we can go outside and play in the creek. It is nice to not have to be anywhere. It’s fun. It’s nice to have family time without a schedule.


So, while, yes, there’s a lot of chaos and I think it just comes from the unknown of what’s going on. It’s been really optimistic to see how people have been coming together. The EMS services are working together and coming together to help each other. That’s probably the best silver lining in all this: seeing how everybody’s adapting and working together.


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