Paramedic Program Receives Accreditation Status

People’s lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of paramedics and EMT’s. So, it’s critical these professionals have strong training before working in the field.

The Western Dakota Tech Paramedic Program recently received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP. The WDT Paramedic Program is one of three paramedic programs in the state to hold the accreditation status.

WDT has been working toward the certification for more than two years, after the National Registry mandated all Paramedic programs be accredited. The process included submission of a self-study, a vigorous review process, and a site visit that included interviews of all staff, administration, advisory committee, instructors, and students.

“The process for accreditation certification is detailed and lengthy,” Steve Buchholz, WDT Dean of Accreditation and Advancement, said. “This ensures only schools that follow protocol, meet specific standards, and offer a quality program receive this status.”

The mandate for accreditation for paramedic programs aims to provide a more consistent educational experience for students. The goal is to develop a standardized education that ensures students are entering the field with knowledge appropriate to the industry.

“Being accredited allows us the ability to continue to provide advanced education in this pre-hospital career field,” Eric Martens, WDT Paramedic Program Director, said.

The Paramedic program at WDT requires students to take 72 classroom and clinical credits over the course of 21 months. Upon successful completion, students are eligible to take the national certification exam that earns them the title of Paramedic.

Martens says the program has been advancing quality through the use of high-end simulation. With vital functions that can be seen and felt, such as pulse, breathing, and bowl sounds, simulators can mimic several medical conditions, including cardiac arrest, seizures, and shortness of breath. Recording capabilities also allow instructors to review simulation events with students on a step-by-step basis.

WDT recently acquired five new high-fidelity simulators. Students now have access to two adults, a child, a baby, and a birthing simulator that can replicate a live birth. The simulators allow paramedic and other students to practice high-stakes clinical skills in a safe environment.

Students who complete the CAAHEP-approved program at WDT have bright job prospects. According to the South Dakota Bureau of Labor Statistics, Paramedics and EMTs can expect a 23% growth rate in career opportunities from 2012 to 2022. That’s much faster than average job growth. In 2013, 100% of students completing the WDT Paramedic program were employed six months after graduation, 77% were employed in the field, and the average starting wage was $13.35/hour.

For more about the WDT Paramedic program visit

State Partners With Denny Sanford To Establish Tech School Scholarships

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard today (December 17, 2014) announced that the state of South Dakota will partner with South Dakota businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to establish a full scholarship program for students entering high-need workforce programs at in-state technical institutes.

“The establishment of this scholarship will mean that each year hundreds of our young people will have the opportunity to enter high-demand fields without incurring debt,” Gov. Daugaard said. “The impact of this will be huge, not only for the students who receive the scholarship but for our entire state which has been faced with workforce challenges.”

T. Denny Sanford, owner of First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, is a well-known philanthropist and South Dakota business owner. Denny purchased United National Corporation, the parent company for the PREMIER organizations in 1986. Since that time, he has created more than 2,300 jobs within the state of South Dakota. To date, Sanford has donated over $1 billion dollars to organizations across the nation.

“I am extremely grateful for Denny’s generous contribution and can’t thank him enough for the investment he’s willing to make in our young people,” said Gov. Daugaard. “Denny, who has already contributed so much to South Dakota by creating thousands of jobs and giving so much of his own money to a number of organizations, is once again stepping up to making our state a better place.”

The Governor has committed to match Sanford’s donation of $25 million with Future Funds for the Build Dakota Scholarship Program. The $50 million is expected to provide 300 scholarships annually in each of the first five years. From 2020 on, an endowment will continue to award approximately 50 scholarships per year.

Those who are awarded with the scholarship will be required to stay in South Dakota to work in their field of study for three years. A board appointed by the Governor will be established to determine specific requirements and how the scholarship will be administered.

“Business leaders across South Dakota have told me that workforce is the single largest obstacle to our continued economic growth,” said state Economic Development Commissioner Pat Costello. “Some businesses have been unable to expand because of the lack of workers. Others have turned down business. This new scholarship will go a long way in addressing that problem.”

Information on the Build Dakota Scholarship program can be found at

WDT seeking comments for accreditation visit

Western Dakota Tech is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a commission of the North Central Association. First accredited in 1983, WDT’s accreditation was reaffirmed in 2008. The next reaffirmation of accreditation visit is April 20 to April 22, 2015. A team of peer reviewers from colleges around the country will assemble on the WDT campus during that time. Before their visit to campus, the public is invited to provide confidential comments to the peer reviewers.

As part of the reaffirmation of accreditation, WDT must provide assurances and evidence of meeting five criteria:

  • Criterion 1: The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.
  • Criterion 2: The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.
  • Criterion 3: The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.
  • Criterion 4: The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.
  • Criterion 5: The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.

Comments and feedback are welcomed because they add value to the reaffirmation process. If you would like to comment, please visit the link below to submit your comments to the Higher Learning Commission.

Thank you.

Steve Buchholz
Dean of Accreditation and Advancement
Western Dakota Tech