LA Senior Christine Hilton practicing CPR at the Midcoast School of Technology in Rockland.

Lincoln Academy senior Christine Hilton won a Bronze Medal in CRP and First Aid at the Maine SkillsUSA competition in Bangor earlier this month. SkillsUSA is a statewide event for students studying trades to showcase their skills and compete with other students from throughout the state of Maine.

Hilton is enrolled in the Basic Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program at the Mid-Coast School of Technology (MCST) in Rockland. The EMT program is a one-year course that certifies high school students as licensed EMTs.

Hilton entered the SkillsUSA competition to practice her skills under pressure. “It was a great learning experience, especially for a person in the EMT class,” said Hilton. “The practicals for my degree are done in exactly the same type of setting. I got a sense of what that would be like to use the skills in a pressured environment in front of a judge, and I am better prepared for my tests. That type of situation will always be very nerve-wracking, but it was important for me to practice in that situation.”

At the SkillsUSA conference, Hilton particularly enjoyed meeting other students from all over Maine who are learning the same skills that she is. “It was great to be able to see all these people with the same goals. It made me feel better to be surrounded by a huge group of people who have the same goals and want to do hard labor. Only people who wanted to be there were there. They had a goal, and that is shown through their work.”

Hilton’s program at MCST helped her be more than ready for statewide competition. “I was over-prepared. I worked with my teacher, Mr. Drinkwater at MCST. I knew everything I needed to know, but you can’t ever be totally prepared for being in a room with one person who is judging you on every move; you are always going to make mistakes.”

The EMT competition required each participant to demonstrate their skills at five stations: infant CPR, child CPR, Adult CPR, choking, and first aid. Each situation had a “story,” and the student had to respond correctly to the emergency situation they were presented: assess the scene, assess the patient, take appropriate steps to ensure everyone’s safety, and correctly perform the emergency measure needed by the patient.

“All of the things a health care professional would do at a real scene, we had to do,” explained Hilton. “It was very realistic.”

It was also stressful. During Hilton’s session, the lights in the room were turned off by accident, and she had to proceed with the test. “So that was a little plot twist,” said Hilton. “I thought I did awfully. I was pretty hyped up, and I thought I would come in last.” But when the judges read the scores, she won a bronze medal.

Hilton’s instructor Mike Drinkwater is the EMT and Fire Safety instructor at MCST, and he was not surprised by her success. Hilton was recently selected as an MCST Student of the Month, Drinkwater said, “for her commitment and dedication to the program, her leadership within the group, her activities in promoting the EMT and Fire programs and MCST,” as well as “her grades in the program, attendance, and work habits.”

“Christine has a natural drive to want to pursue this direction in life. She has a good understanding of what it truly means to be in the emergency medical field. Christine is an active member of the Damariscotta Fire Department. Being a member of this organization exposes her to the teamwork needed to render services to those in need while sacrificing her personal time when the alarm sounds. It takes a special type of person to commit to this lifestyle and I think she has what it takes. Christine is a good student and person. I see her doing well in whatever she chooses to do in life. It is hard to find students of any age who are willing to commit to the training requirements of public service.”

Hilton has already been accepted into the paramedic program at Southern Maine Community College, where she plans to begin coursework in the fall of 2017. This is a two year Associate’s Degree program, after which she will be certified to work as a paramedic.

Hilton hopes to continue her training to become a critical care paramedic, and maybe a Life Flight medic. “Someday I might go back to school to become a critical care nurse. I am not sure of all my goals, because goals change so much over time, but I know I want to stay in the critical care field.” Hilton’s success at the SKillsUSA competition proves that she is on the right career path because, in her own words, “I do well under that type of pressure.”