Monday, March 25, 2013

It's An Emergency! 911 Dispatchers

How does a person become that voice on the other end of the phone when someone calls 911?

Requirements to be an Emergency Dispatcher, the official name for a 911 operator, vary by state, and possibly county to county. In Minnesota, there currently is no standard for every county. There are still some counties that will train people on the job and then allow them to work as dispatchers.

That line of thinking is changing, however. There are a number of police departments that require a technical college certification at the least, and an Associate or Bachelor degree is becoming more common. The 2 or 4 year degrees would be in Communications, Criminal Justice, or Law Enforcement.

Helpful coursework to take in high school would be medical terminology, psychology, keyboarding, social studies; also, people who are highly organized will be better in this career than those who are not.

What qualities are important in a successful Emergency Dispatcher? You must be:

  • A good listener: Someone who understands quickly what is needed, and can also sense other things going on 'in the background.'
  • Empathetic towards people who are in panic mode and be able to calm them: be the sort of person who won't 'catch the panic' of the person calling, so that you can get a clear idea of the emergency and where to send help.
  • Able to detect possible false claims of emergencies
  • Able to multitask: You will likely need to keep the person on the phone while ordering the services needed.
  • A good problem solver: What can you tell the person right away that might help?
  • A good leader: You will be the first contact, so you must be able to tell others what is needed with clarity
  • A fast, accurate, typist
  • Trained well in your dispatcher software-You need to be completely comfortable with the computer program that will get help to the person on the line.
You must have a clear criminal background and be able to pass a polygraph (lie detector) test, pass a drug test, and have good hearing and vision. Be aware that dispatchers are needed 24/7, so you will likely have to work various shifts at various times of day. Knowledge of at least one foreign language could be very helpful, and in the future may be required, especially in larger cities.

You will always be participating in continuing education, from 20 to 30 hours a year, in order to stay on top of situations that may occur as well as new technology to locate and dispatch the proper rescue personnel.

Emergency dispatchers must pass and maintain a certification in CPR. In some cases, even dispatchers must have an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification. This is because there are times when dispatchers, as the first contact for help, must 'walk the person through' the steps of CPR and first aid.

The Association of Public Safety Community Officials (APCO)  recommends a 40-hour course as the minimum requirement for an Emergency Dispatcher.

Become a certified First Responder (or go further and become an Emergency Medical Technician) through courses at Anoka Technical College:

The National Academies of Emergency Medical Dispatch is here:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Other Careers In Dentistry: You Know The Drill

What are some careers in dentistry aside from actually being a dentist?

To begin, if you are in high school you should be taking biology, chemistry, and math classes and doing well in them. If there are higher level courses in science and math available to you, by all means, take them.

In a career as a Dental Assistant or Dental Hygienist, you will need great people skills, as you will work with all ages and levels of apprehension on the part of your patients, and will need to work well with the dentist you are assisting. You need excellent fine-motor skills and steady hands to manipulate small instruments while working in peoples' mouths; keep in mind you will also likely be working with children, who have even smaller mouths. Be aware that you may find your back is sore after a busy day of assisting, as you may be on your feet and bending over to work. Your vision must be excellent. You must be calm and even-tempered, and conduct yourself very professionally, while still being understanding of your patients' needs.

The first level of career in a dental office is a Dental Assistant. Dental assisting programs may be obtained from some technical colleges, involving six months of instruction plus three months of clinical experience, followed by a certification test. Other Dental Assistant programs are 2-year Associate of Science degrees.

This is the person who will:
Sterilize instruments and equipment
Arrange and anticipate which instruments the dentist will need
Work as a team with the dentist
Make patients comfortable for their dental work
Clean and dry the patients' mouths using suction
Keep records of patient visits

The dental assistant student will need to know:
Basic medical terminology
First Aid
Chairside techniques
Anatomy and specialized oral anatomy
Names and uses of dental instruments
Sterilization of dental instruments
Lab procedures
Administrative aspects of a dental office

To be certified, at the end of training at an accredited school, the dental assistant candidate must pass a four hour test which includes 320 questions on chairside procedures, infection control, and radiation and radiation safety.

What about a Dental Hygienist?

Those pursuing a Dental Hygienist career will take courses in chemistry, microbiology, pharmaceuticals, nutrition, periodontology, materials, and also social sciences. After coursework, they need to pass their state board exam, similar to a nursing program. If you obtain a BS in dental hygiene, you could be an educator, a clinician, do research to find better ways of treating dental conditions or doing repairs to teeth, or be a dental office manager.

These people take on more responsibilities than an assistant. They may have a 2 year degree, but it is becoming more common that they acquire a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. There are also masters programs in dental hygiene. A hygienist may:

Do patient screenings for cavities or dental-related diseases
Take X-rays or digital images of teeth
Perform scaling and cleaning of teeth to remove calculus
Apply sealants to preserve teeth, such as fluorides
Teach oral hygiene to patients or visit schools and teach to children how to take care of their teeth
Make impressions of teeth
(With further training) prepare temporary fillings or crowns
Document patient visits and results

You might also consider a career as a Dental Lab Technician. These are people who make dentures, individual replacement teeth, bridges, and crowns using impressions and images taken at a dental office.

What happened here????

Other types of dentistry include cosmetic, where the teeth can be repaired or changed in order to have the patient look better and make their teeth work better; orthodontics, which involves placing braces on the teeth to align them, and oral surgery. Each type of dentistry can call for specialized assistants and hygienists.

You can visit the American Dental Association website for more info:
And this is the University of Minnesota Dental Hygiene program:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Accredited vs. Non-Accredited: What's the Big Deal?

You may have seen ads on TV for schools specific to a certain profession, such as becoming a chef or medical assistant. These ads picture people happy that they chose their careers and they seem very happily placed in great jobs.

Be careful when you consider attending these schools: many of them are not accredited. What does that mean?

Here's the government's explanation:

Accreditation is term regulated by the Secretary of Education and the Department of Education. Accreditation means that the school has put together curriculum, professors, classes and programs that meet certain higher standards. Some nonaccredited schools are accredited by the state or advertise accreditation but are only self-accredited.
In other words...  A school is accredited if it is recognized by a federal accreditation agency. This means that the education offered at this school is of a high quality that matches standards set on a national level, and includes a comprehensive education, rather than a focus on just one subject.

The non-accredited school may present itself as the most practical way to get out in the workforce with a so-called 'degree' as soon as possible. That's because you won't get more than minimal hands-on training for your career. There are two major problems associated with a non-accredited school:

1. Classes you have taken there will likely not transfer to any other school, accredited or not; so if you were to decide to take further education, or change to another career which might be related, it would be as if you had never taken any classes before. However, if you attend an accredited school, credit for a number of classes is good forever and can be transferred to another accredited school, so you would not have to repeat them.

2. Non-accredited schools are sometimes not qualified to receive any financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and loans which are available to accredited schools. This would mean that you would simply have to take out personal loans and pay for the school directly.

Be especially wary of ads you might see in a paper or magazine offering a 'degree' for an exceptionally low cost and claiming you don't even need any training; just submit your fee and you will receive a diploma. Some will say you can 'earn' a 'degree' through your life experiences. These are completely bogus. Also, take caution when enrolling in online schools: some are fully accredited, and some are not.

You may also find the cost of one of these schools is particularly high-considerably higher than an accredited one. Or, the cost is very low because it is not a particularly thorough education. A word to the wise: Getting someone at these schools to give you a true dollar figure as to the cost of the program can be difficult. They will also be very persuasive in trying to 'talk you into it.' Accredited schools will be above board about all costs and will encourage you to make your own decision.

Schools can offer a program and call it a "Bachelors" or "Associates" program and say that when you finish you will obtain those 'degrees,' but in reality, from a non-accredited school they are not recognized by many employers.

Non-accredited schools may not meet standards required to be recognized. A good example would be a non-accredited school of nursing. If the Board of Nursing does not approve of ('recognize') the school, you may not be able to take the NCLEX Boards exam in order to be granted your R.N. degree. Thus, you may have taken classes which 'don't count' and which will not be recognized when you decide to take classes at an accredited school.

You can rest assured that all Minnesota State colleges and universities, (MNSCU) including community colleges and technical colleges, are fully accredited, as are many other major colleges and universities. If in doubt, there's no harm in calling to make sure.

How can you tell whether a school is actually accredited? Be careful before making a commitment to any school. Some of them are even inventing their own "accreditation agencies" that they will refer you to, which are not valid on the same level as Federal recognition agencies.  Look into these questions to assure yourself that this is an accredited school:

  • Ask which federally recognized accreditation agencies have approved the school. Still in doubt? Go to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation at:     -At this site, you can check on 8,200 schools and 20,700 programs to see if they are accredited.
  • Check to make sure it is operating legally in your state: check with your state Board of Education. In Minnesota, call the Minnesota Office of Higher Education at 651-642-0567 or toll-free at 1-800-657-3866
  • See if the school has any complaints against it, and what those complaints entail.
  • Check with employers in your planned career: Would they accept school credentials from this school? You can call a business and ask someone in their Human Resources department.
  • What are their occupational licensure requirements?
  • Contact the school's counseling center and ask questions of them; they need to know about accreditation of their own school.
  • Find out if credits are transferable from the school to an accredited school (typically, they are not); you will best find this out by contacting a school you know to be accredited; that is, call a local state college or university or well-known private college or university, ask for someone in advising, and ask about the other school's credits. Have a TRIO advisor? He or she will know the answer, too, or will be able to find out.
We also suggest that, if you are still in high school, you ask a school counselor or advisor about this issue. If you are in college and considering switching to a non-accredited school, ask an advisor why this might not be your best choice.

Here is an excellent site that discusses accreditiation issues:

Be sure you aren't being fooled by a school offering a useless 'degree.'

SSS Student of the Month-January 2013-Mina Haarala

Congratulations to Mina Haarala, our SSS Student of the month for January 2013!

    Mina is TRiO’s Student of the Month for January because of her dedication to her school work, family, educational goals, being active in TRiO, and her ability to balance it all.  Mina has been in TRiO since her first semester in college.  She is working towards finishing her required general education courses to then transfer for her Baccalaureate degree in Entrepreneurship/Business Management.

     Mina’s pursuit of her education is something to be proud of. In the face of defeat, many decide that this is the end of their educational road.  To Mina, it is a challenge that she will face, work through, and then move on, and be better for it. Committed and determined students like Mina remind us in TRiO why we do what we do.

     Congratulations, Mina for being TRiO’s Student of the Month! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Tuition Costs What?

Everyone picks a college based on individual preferences. The location of the school, what courses it is strong in, the student population, ratio of instructors to students, activities, rural or city setting, size of campus, housing, and whether the college just 'feels right' to you---all of these are important factors.

One factor everyone always needs to know is: What is the cost?

While tuition costs are available for many colleges in your immediate area, Triogenius was interested to know what it costs to attend the most expensive colleges in the U.S. Here are the figures based on 2011 tuition for one year, fulltime, and don't include housing or food/meal plans:

   Yale University           Connecticut           $40,000
   Princeton                     New Jersey             40,170
   Harvard                       Massachusetts         52,650
   Trinity College            Connecticut             53,330
   Bard College               New York                53,480
   Barnard College            New York                53,496
   New York University    New York                   53,589
   Georgetown               Washington, DC        53,591
   Johns Hopkins            Baltimore, MD          53,690
   Columbia                    New York                 53,874

And the #1 most expensive college in the U.S.:

Sarah Lawrence College   Vermont              $59,170

What about most expensive schools in Minnesota?

Bethany College                      $29,080
College of St Catherine             32,386
University of St Thomas            33,040
Concordia-St Paul                     36,000
Concordia-Moorhead                36,150
College of St Scholastica           37,222
Bethel College                           37,990
Augsburg                                   38,484
Hamline                                     40,452
College of St Benedict              43,264
Gustavus Adolphus                   44,597
Macalester                                 53,419
Carleton                                     54,180

Again, these figures are for tuition only, two semesters, and don't include room, board, or meal plan.

Interestingly, although figures are hard to track down, in 1912 tuition at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania cost $150 and Pomona College in California cost $90.00. However, a typical yearly salary was about $200, so this was still a lot of money at the time and explains why only the wealthy could afford college.

Choose your school wisely...and enjoy it!