TRENTON — "When the alarm goes, you go."

Taking clinical experience beyond the hospital and laboratory settings, Thomas Edison State University is in the second semester of its ride-along program that allows the school's aspiring nurses to accompany fire department and EMS personnel on medical calls.

For 12 hours at a time, students in the accelerated program are stationed at the Trenton Fire Department, preparing to scramble into an emergency vehicle when the next call comes in.

"They are right there because when the alarm goes, you go," said Lia van Rijswijk, associate dean of undergraduate nursing programs. "The call comes in, the truck leaves, and they're in it."

The experience, van Rijswijk said, teaches students about the importance of "interprofessional care" — the healthcare system consists of many different professions that need to work together — and gives nurses a better idea of a patient's background, along with the challenges a patient may face when they are ultimately discharged from the hospital.

"Hopefully when they graduate, it's something that they will never forget," van Rijswijk said of the program.

Launched in September, the program was only expected to run for one semester. But the feedback was so positive, from both nursing students and the city's first responders, van Rijswijk said, that the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing adjusted its curriculum to include the same experience in the new year.

"Cooperation between the city and our valued educational institutions is what makes our community so strong," said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. "Nurses get the training they need and our Trenton Fire Department personnel hone their skills in teaching the next wave of healthcare professionals in the Capital City. Everybody gets a win here."

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