Paramedics program director wins EMS Educator of the Year Award

Barbara Penland poses for a photo with Chief Jack Thomas of the City of Orange. (courtesy B. Penland)

Barbara Penland poses for a photo with Chief Jack Thomas of the City of Orange Fire Department. (Larry Grihalva)


Barbara Penland, an instructor in Saddleback College’s paramedic program, has been selected as the EMS Educator of the Year Award by the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.

The award is given annually to EMS professionals who “due to circumstance or extraordinary effort… shine.” Penland was chosen, “for over 40 years of exceptional educational leadership and tireless advocacy for professional EMS training throughout California,” according to the CEMSA website. Penland received an impressive five nominations, a testament to her hard work and dedication to EMS education and the community.

Penland is very happy and gracious to have been selected to receive the award, but has remained humbled by the experience and continues to devote her time to ensuring EMS students at Saddleback are well educated. She continues to operate the Saddleback paramedic program with  passion and serves the surrounding community by volunteering to improve the lives of others.

She has been a paramedic programs director and instructor at Saddleback since its introduction in August of 1988. Penland moved to Southern California from Chicago when she was 8 years old, she received an Associates of Arts in nursing from El Camino College in Torrance. Penland also has a Masters of Arts  in health services management from Webster University in Irvine.

“I started in 1988, August of 1988 was the first classes,” Penland said. “When I was hired, I was hired to start the program and have been with it throughout its duration.”

Emergency medical services (EMS) save many lives on a daily basis and serve an important role in our communities across the nation. Saddleback College has a program for those seeking a carrier that requires EMS knowledge and training. For 27 years Saddleback has offered such a program, the paramedic EMS program educating students with the fundamental skills and theory in emergency medical care.

The paramedic program is designed to prepare individuals to conduct basic life support procedures during an emergency situation and during transport to the hospital. It prepares trainees to have the proper attitude when dealing with a variety of individuals in need of emergency medical services. The training also provides the proper skills and knowledge to make split decisions and execute them properly in a life threatening situation.


Penland a registered nurse, has many years of emergency department nursing experience at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood. She also has experience as a Prehospital Care Coordinator at Huntington Beach Hospital for eight years before coming to Saddleback.

“I’m a registered nurse and have many years of emergency department experience, and EMS coordination experience,” Penland said.

An active volunteer, Penland donates her time for School on Wheels, a tutoring program designed to reach out to homeless youth to teach, mentor and assist in all aspects of their educational lives. She has also volunteered with animal welfare and adoption organizations.

She has a passion for traveling the U.S. by train. Penland has traveled by train through various states and cities including New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Seattle. Penland also enjoys reading, her favorites include mysteries and historical fiction.

“I love to read, especially historical fiction and mysteries,” she said. “Also I love to travel by train, I have traveled all over the country by Amtrak.”

Penland will receive her award when she is recognized at the CEMSA Program on Wednesday, Dec. 2, in San Francisco.