Pagosa Springs Medical Center EMS educates school district students and staff

Photo courtesy Pagosa Springs Medical Center Pagosa Springs Medical Center EMT Nicole LaGioia and newly trained Student Response Team members from Pagosa Springs High School.
Photo courtesy Pagosa Springs Medical Center
Pagosa Springs Medical Center EMT Nicole LaGioia and newly trained Student Response Team members from Pagosa Springs High School.

By Jesse Hensle
Special to The PREVIEW

Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) Emergency Medical Service (EMS) recently completed two different outreach events with the Archuleta School District to help educate students and staff on what to do in the event of emergency. The educational workshops provided a framework for decisions and actions that should be made immediately after a medical need has been recognized.

During the first event, PSMC EMS worked with Pagosa Springs High School (PSHS) coaches and students to create an emergency action plan for after-school activities. The program, called “Anyone Can Save A Life,” empowers students to be a part of a coordinated response in the event of an emergency.

PSMC EMS first trained and certified all coaches in CPR and first aid. Then student volunteers from each sport are brought in to create student response teams that have specific tasks to help provide a rapid response to a medical emergency, including sudden cardiac arrest, a leading cause of death among adults and student athletes nationwide. The student response teams are each made up of three to five students varying in grade level. The first group is the 911 team, whose priority is to call 911 and wait for an ambulance to come so they can show the EMTs where the patient is. The second unit is the CPR team. These students will initiate CPR on a unresponsive patient. The third set of students is the AED team and will locate the nearest automated external defibrillator. In the event the patient has gone into cardiac arrest, the AED can be used to restore the heart’s normal rhythm. The final unit is the heat stroke team. While the other student responders are performing their designated duties, the stroke team will locate the immersion tub and begin to fill it with ice and water to submerge a patient that is exhibiting signs of a heat stroke.

“Through the Pagosa Springs Medical Center, Nicole LaGioia has trained and certified a large number of students and staff at Pagosa Springs High School in first aid, CPR and AED. As part of the Anyone Can Save A Life program, several student-athletes from each of our athletic teams have been trained in CPR/AED. This is important because, oftentimes, a sports team is in a remote location with no access to an athletic trainer,” stated Marci Ham, assistant principal and athletic director at PSHS. “By training our student-athletes, Nicole has provided us with some invaluable, lifesaving knowledge.”

The importance of the program is best described by LaGioia, a PSMC EMT who also leads the agency’s public education efforts: “While we do a great job of providing emergency medical services for our community, we have a very large area to cover and every second counts in a medical emergency. By having trained responders on hand, a patient will get medical attention faster, increasing the chances of a successful outcome.”

She continued, “Every three days, a young competitive athlete dies from sudden cardiac arrest. We need to make sure our student athletes are prepared, should a medical emergency happen.”

This is the second year PSMC EMS has provided the training for the student-athletes. The program will continue throughout the year as new sports start up.

The second outreach event was to provide a first aid demonstration to 35 faculty members of the Pagosa Springs Middle School (PSMS). The staff will take students on six to eight extended field trips throughout the year to locations such as Moab, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Bandelier National Monument. Due to the remoteness of these locations, the staff needs to know how to recognize when there is a problem and how to address the situation properly to get the student the medical attention they need. Some of the topics covered were how to splint a rolled ankle and how to slow or stop bleeding. There was a preventative aspect with the education that emphasized the importance of considering the type of environment the field trip will take place in; for example, making sure a student with asthma brings their inhaler or if a student that is allergic to bees has access to an EpiPen.

“The staff does not need to know what the exact problem is. For instance, the signs for a heat stroke and high blood sugar will present the same. They just need to recognize there is a problem and that 911 needs to be contacted,” said LaGioia.

PSMS Principal Chris Hinger illustrated the importance of the demonstration, “The Pagosa Springs Medical Center has provided the middle school staff with invaluable training to ensure the safety of our students during our many adventure learning experiences. Our local medical center is truly a valued partner in education.”

The PSMC EMS team is very active in public training and education. For more information on available classes, please visit, call 731-3700 or email LaGioia at