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BYU-I paramedic program flatlines

Story by Jessica Potter

BYU-Idaho will be discontinuing its fully accredited Bachelor’s of Paramedicine degree, effective immediately.

In mid-January, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences sent an email to all declared paramedicine students.

“Over the past several months, academic administration has been discussing the future of the Paramedic Program at BYU-Idaho,” according to the email.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, along with university administration, decided to discontinue the program due to faculty changes and future sustainability of the program, according to the email.

The administration is canceling the paramedicine program because it is a cohort-based program that requires application and acceptance, according to the email.

“We will not initiate another cohort, but the cohort that is currently enrolled will be able to complete the program,” according to the email.

Van Christman, the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the decision to drop the program the collective administration made had a lot to do with the long-term progress and growth of BYU-I.

“We felt that the faculty resources needed for the number of students served was not sustainable,” Christman said.

He said the decision was made a lot sooner to close the paramedics program when they lost a faculty member in fall semester and decided not to find a replacement.

“Any discussion to close a program is a hard decision,” Christman said.

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He said they did not worry as much about the program’s ranking so much as the benefit to the students devoted to  the program.

“It has served a lot of students over the years, and I think it has trained them well,” Christman said.

He said there was an obvious concern for the impact this would have on students involved and invested in the program, but the administration felt it was the right decision at this point in time.

“The process of discontinuing a program is fairly complex,” Christman said.

He said that once the decision is made to move forward, several councils need to approve the recommendation, which takes time and consideration.

“We did not have the freedom to discuss our proposal until all levels had given their approval,” Christman said.

He said the necessary approval came through on Jan. 13, and he sent an email out the next day, Jan. 14.

“We attempted to notify people as quickly as possible,” Christman said. “It was one day after the add/drop deadline for the semester, but we worked with students who came forward to switch classes or drop classes without a penalty for about 1 ½ weeks after the announcement.”

Christman said he has made it a point to personally meet any paramedic student that might need help working out an alternate plan, including transferring or changing majors to fit their personal goals.

“It takes time, but I am committed to helping students in this situation to move forward in the best manner possible,” Christman said.

Katrina French, a junior studying paramedicine, loves the program and is sad to see it discontinued.

“I’ve known since I was a little kid, like since middle school, that I wanted to be a paramedic,” French said.

She said she researched the BYU-I Paramedicine program before attending the university and worked after being admitted to the school so that she could enter the program.

“When I got accepted, that was one of the happiest days of my life,” French said. “We have very high pass rates, very high success rates; we get job offers right out of school.”

French said it was hard for her when she heard the news about the program being discontinued in early January.

“I had a really hard time with it; my whole class has had a really hard time with it,” French said. “Our instructors have had a hard time with it.”

French said she feels upset for those that have not yet applied but have worked for the last couple years to reach that point.

“No one that was planning on it will be able to start,” she said. “Once you’re up to the program, you’re basically a senior.”

French said that, for those already in the Paramedicine program, the discontinuation will not affect their graduation within the program.

“We are going to be able to graduate with our bachelor’s in paramedicine,” French said. “We’re really grateful for that.”

Stephanie Allen, a junior studying paramedicine, has been working since she started at BYU-I to qualify to apply to the paramedic program.

She said she recently had her grad plan approved and her major declared in preparation to apply and enter the paramedicine program.

Allen said she heard about the program discontinuation the day after the add/drop period closed for the semester.

“I cried,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Allen said she was in denial when she got the email telling her that the program would no longer be taking new applicants in the spring.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” she said. “I was like, ‘No way, we have the second-ranked paramedic program in the country. We’re not going to get dropped.’”

Allen and other students collaborated to petition for an extension so that juniors and seniors who have been working toward application can graduate within the program.

“We talked to Brother Page, with the academic office; I talked to Brother Christman, with Ag and Life Sciences,” Allen said.

The administration told Allen and her peers that the extension would not be possible. Allen said she and others who have prepared to enter the paramedic program must now choose another degree path to graduate.

“Now it’s going to be another couple years before we’re done,” she said.

Allen is grateful for the efforts of people like Christman from the college of agriculture and life sciences who are working with people who now cannot  apply in the spring to explore their options.

She said she has plans to get her associate’s in medical assisting, but does not know what she will do about her bachelor’s.

“There’s a lot of people that are wanting to transfer schools,” Allen said. “A lot of people that just want to get their associate’s degree and move on. It is what it is.”

Ricky Zaleski, a junior studying health science, said that he had been interested in the program for a couple years.

Zaleski said the student-to-teacher ratio was very low, which was a strong point in the paramedic program, but also one of the reasons the school cannot  afford to continue supporting it.

“I was frustrated, I guess, because I actually had six years figured out after the program,” Zaleski said. “When that cancelled, that wiped away those six years I already had planned out. I had to make a new plan from scratch. A lot of people have asked me if I want to transfer schools.”

Zaleski said that he wants to continue studying here and explore other  medical programs.

“I’ve been thinking about nursing,” he said.

Zaleski said he thinks it is the next best thing to having direct interaction with the patients and to focus on their care.

“The Academic Discovery Center in Ezra Taft Benson Building, Room 238, 208-496-1411 will help you with options that may be available as you look for other avenues  to pursue,” according to the email. “We wish you the best in your endeavors and know the Lord will bless you as you move forward.”

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