LCCTC senior becomes certified EMT, first-ever

Halie Diffenbacher is a senior at Lawrence County Career and Technical Center.

Halie Diffenbacher made some Lawrence County history recently.

A senior at the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center, Diffenbacher became the county’s and school’s first emergency medical technician. EMTs must be ready for emergency vehicle operation, evaluate the scene for safety and must assess patients for emergency medical care.

Diffenbacher was one of four students at the school enrolled in the EMT class, but the three others withdrew. She then prepared for several weeks and was the only high school student who took the Pennsylvania EMT psychomotor exam after working extensively with Vince Pavia, registered nurse and health assisting instructor at the school.

“It was a real challenge,” Diffenbacher, 18, a native of Wyoming and daughter of Amanda and Josh Diffenbacher, said. “I couldn’t have done this program without the help of my teachers. They really helped me to come out of my shell. Mr. Pavia really encouraged me when things seemed difficult.”

Diffenbacher traveled to the EMS West regional office in Pittsburgh and her test consisted of seven stations, including patient assessment trauma, patient assessment medical, airway management, bleeding control, administration of oxygen to a person in respiratory distress, bone injury management and CPR/AED, Pavia said.

“I am proud to say that after she was informed that she passed, the head of the EMS West’s educational center pulled me aside and said that the evaluators said that ‘she did phenomenal,’” Pavia said. “One judge said, ‘she’s ready to go out on the ambulance tomorrow. This is a huge kudos to Halie. Despite this being our first ever EMS class and dealing with the ‘trials and errors’ of delivery, she had devoted so much time and preparation in achieving this.’”

She passed all requirements for Pennsylvania and now will take the cognitive and written exam for the National Registry EMT, for which she is already scheduled.

“This was the first ever offering of this course at the CTC,” Pavia said. “We started the EMT course this school year due to a local need in the area.”

Pavia had previously been employed as an EMT at Noga Ambulance since 2010 and works as an emergency room nurse at Sharon Regional Hospital since 2013.

The health assisting program is for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. During the first year, students learn fundamentals of health care, including taking the direct care staff training. They also learn principles of infection control, safety and body mechanics, communication skills, vital signs, medical terminology and anatomy and physiology. In the second year, students are enrolled into a certified nursing assistant course and do all requirements for the nurse aid training ad competency evaluation program, including theory, lab and clinicals.

After the successful completion of that training and after passing both the cognitive and hands-on testing, the student earns the title of a CNA.

“During the third school year,” Pavia continued, “we added the EMT course as an elective for any student who has completed the CAN course. It is a prerequisite to have the CAN before taking the EMT course. We left this gives the third-year student the opportunity to either go on cooperative learning or take the EMT course. We understand that emergency care is not for everybody, so offering it as an allows for students who want to do this for a career.”

The course is held during the school day.

LCCTC has block scheduling, so students do a week of academics then a week of vocational learning. During the vocational week, students are in shop from 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., allowing for theory work, lab work and clinical ride time to be done during the regular school day. The course is free to health assistant students.

“Several underclassmen have already voiced interest in the course, and this is something that we hope to continue to offer for future students to obtain to help EMS services in our area,” Pavia said.

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Selma Sanders-West is a reporter for the New Castle News. Email her at

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