For the past 20 years, Wake Forest’s on campus Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has provided students with quick-response medical attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Responding to hundreds of calls a year, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are fully trained and equipped to handle anything from sport injuries, to intoxication, to nausea.
Along with the faculty advisor and associate director of student health Darren Aaron, WFEMS is run by trained student volunteers, both undergraduates and graduates. The presence of this service on campus is beneficial to everyone; student EMTs get practice handling medical emergencies, and sick or injured students, faculty, visitors and community members can receive immediate medical attention should they require it.
“Having students here that have the trained medical skills to provide for that need works wonders,” said senior Matthew Yeager, who was elected Chief by his peers this year. Contrary to popular belief, EMTs frequently deal with situations other than intoxication; only 40 percent of calls are alcohol-related emergencies. “We run the whole gamut. Last year, we ran close to 300 calls and we’re on track to beat that this year,” Aaron said.
Training and Equipment Captain Alison Hoffer says that being located on campus allows them to reach patients much faster than other agencies. “Those few extra minutes can make a big difference in patient care and well being,” she said. “Being on campus also gives us an opportunity to reach out to the school community about medical safety and help inform students about the risks of certain behaviors.”
Most, but not all, students become EMTs if they are interested in entering a healthcare profession. For Yeager and Hoffer, participating in WFEMS affirmed their desires to go into the medical field. “EMS also gives us the opportunity to volunteer on campus and give back to our community, as well as to work with other student organizations and network with Campus Police, Wake Forest administrators and county paramedics,” said Hoffer.
Students can become part of the WFEMS team as early as their freshman year if they are EMT certified. If a student is interested in getting involved and has not taken an EMT certification class, he or she can begin by attending meetings and doing ride-alongs, which allow students to begin unofficial training through observational learning. Once they are certified, however, students can begin to actually have direct interactions with patients as probationary members. After a period of training and assessment, “probies” can become full members. During training, EMTs participate in driver training, radio protocols, standard operating procedures, in addition to an all day training session once per semester. However, training is never complete for any member of the team; they are constantly refining skills and developing new skills.
Upon arriving on a scene of emergency, EMTs quickly assess the situation, check patient vital signs and decide upon a course of action. Depending on the severity of the emergency, patients are treated at the original location, driven to Student Health Services by one of the WFEMS emergency transport vehicles or taken to a hospital by a Forsyth County ambulance. Being able to translate textbook knowledge to real-life situations and achieving patient trust is vital.
“Gaining confidence is also essential in becoming a great EMT,” Aaron said.
Freshman EMT Taylor Manthey has enjoyed her time being part of the team thus far. She is a “probie” and looks forward to gaining enough experience to become a full member.
“We share in each other’s victories, excitement, and disappointments, and we support each other in ways that I’ve never experienced before,” Manthey said.
Aaron, who works closely with students, agrees with Manthey in regards to the quality of EMT members.
“I work with a great group of students. I get the cream of the crop,” Aaron said. “I love watching their passion and their dedication to helping each other and helping their fellow students. It makes me feel good all day.”
Regardless of the time of day, nature of the emergency or severity of the illness or injury, student EMTs are willing and equipped to take care of the Wake Forest community.