April 21, 2008
Making a critical difference
By Beverly clark
Community service for most Emory students doesn’t include encounters with blood, vomit and myocardial infarctions. But for the students who serve as medics for Emory Emergency Medical Services, it can all happen in a day’s work.
The student-run, volunteer force of 40 provides 24/7 EMS coverage for campus as a unit of the Emory Police Department. No mere volunteers, these students are certified EMT professionals who complete a yearlong class of 260-plus hours of training, beyond the 200 hours required by the state.
“There really is no typical student that signs up for Emory EMS. The individuals that we look for are anyone with the drive and enthusiasm to give 110 percent,” said Daniel Sperling, a junior sociology major and incoming chief of operations.
The students work in two-person teams on eight-hour shifts around the clock with a supervisor. Supervisors are on call in 24-hour shifts, and often put in 40 hours a week or more. And when, say, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama is in town, time spent on-duty increases exponentially.
“The volunteerism on this unit speaks volumes of the character of our medics and their unconditional devotion to Emory’s well-being and safety,” said Emory EMS chief Josh Rozell, a senior neuroscience major.
Most days are quiet, with a call or two per shift. Downtime is spent in the group’s headquarters, a converted office in the N. Decatur Building.
But when the call comes, the adrenaline flows and all energy is focused on getting to and helping a patient in need.
“You never know exactly what the situation will be like until you get there,” said business junior Kevin Smith during a recent shift that involved a car accident with minor injuries. “You don’t want it to be a bad situation, but if it is, you know that you have the ability to make a difference.”
Last fall, Emory EMS responded to 351 calls, with an average response time of three and a half minutes, a fraction of the time it normally takes other units to respond. The unit’s territory includes the Emory campus and adjacent businesses and roads.
Recently the unit responded to a call in less than two minutes and provided life-saving medication to a staff member having a severe allergic reaction. In another case, medics stabilized a staff member having a heart attack.
“Being here right on campus allows us to get to patients when they need it most, especially during the critical ‘golden hour.’ In some cases, it really is a life or death situation,” said Dan Hootman, a senior business major and chief of training.
There are fewer than 100 such student-run EMS units at colleges around the country, and “Emory’s is among the best in the nation,” said Emory Police Capt. Ray Edge, administrator to the unit. During the recent National Collegiate EMS Foundation conference, Emory EMS was honored with the top “Striving for Excellence Award” and best campus video of the year.
Emory EMS also does extensive community outreach. The group hosted the largest single venue CPR training event in the country last fall for more than 600 people. They provided alcohol awareness education for fellow students and recently ran a drunk driving demonstration for Druid Hills High School. And, they will cosponsor this year’s Relay for Life.
“They exhibit a level of dedication rarely seen in the workplace — and they do so as volunteers,” said Emory Police Chief Craig Watson. “They are a critical part of Emory’s public safety, and the members of the EMS unit truly serve as role models for their fellow students.”