By Sheri Hale
The 911 call comes into the University Ambulance Service at 3:08 a.m. A residence hall student reports that his roommate has severe pain in his stomach and he doesn't know what to do for him. Two Penn State students (let's call them Mike and Shelley) have been awake all night in the basement of Ritenour Building waiting for such a call. They are emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and they are well prepared to handle the situation.
Mike has been an EMT since his sophomore year of high school and Shelley became certified last year through Penn State courses. They both love what they do -- helping people and learning about medical care. They both say it is their favorite part of being in college, much more interesting than most of their classes. Mike wants to become a doctor and Shelley plans to be an elementary school teacher. She wants to join her local ambulance service after graduation.
Mike and Shelley are typical of the 43 student EMTs who staff University Ambulance Service (UAS), a University Health Services program.
UAS serves the University Park campus and provides mutual aid for the greater State College area, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Last year, UAS responded to 872 emergency calls and provided coverage for 420 special events on campus.
UAS offers a tremendous service-based learning opportunity for students. Student EMTs are able to develop professional, leadership, mentoring and emergency medical skills. They complete numerous training programs, averaging more than one a week. The training programs are delivered by students, physicians, lawyers, educators and many other guests from health care fields as well other facets of emergency services.
Student EMTs also promote emergency services and health education. They formed a student organization, Emergency Medical Services Association (EMSA), which is dedicated to increasing public awareness of emergency services and health promotion. They have educated the community by offering CPR courses, an ambulance ride-along program, and community education programs with local elementary schools and Girl Scout troops. The Penn State EMS Training Institute offers a variety of EMS courses for students and community members.
In addition to education, student EMTs have impacted the community through other community service projects such as a blood drive, free blood pressure screenings and their dedication to the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. While these students provide 48-hour medical coverage at the Dance Marathon, they also sponsor four dancers and raise money for The Four Diamonds Fund.
EMSA celebrated National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Week last November by offering many health education events, including a mock DUI accident in front of Ritenour Building involving two EMS crews, bystanders and three patients.
This demonstration served to increase awareness about the seriousness of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The students received national recognition for this project and have been invited to give a presentation at a national conference in February.
Penn State's student EMTs look forward to future contributions they can make to their community. They will continue to offer the ambulance ride-along program, education programs, CPR classes and other service projects throughout the spring semester while providing outstanding medical care to their community.
P.S. -- The rest of the story: Mike and Shelley arrived at the scene of the emergency by 3:12 a.m. and immediately performed an evaluation of the student's medical condition. They determined he needed further medical care and transported him to the emergency department at Mount Nittany Medical Center. And then it was back to Ritenour Building to complete their shift, followed by a quick nap and then classes -- a busy schedule, but rewarding to them, as well as to Penn State students and area residents who benefit from their emergency medical care and community service projects.
University Health Services offers many opportunities for students to become involved in helping others through service learning programs. For more information about becoming a student EMT, call 865-1772. For information about other service learning opportunities, call 863-0461.