Lights & Sirens

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The Daily Bruin Online

UCLA's ambulances are handled by a team of 15 students, who say their jobs mature them quickly

By Michelle Navarro

Daily Bruin Contributor

9:30 a.m.

beep beep ...

Dispatch: EMS1?

Heather: EMS1.

Dispatch: EMS1 respond to 10735 Wilshire Blvd., 87-year-old female with a possible broken hip.

Heather: EMS1 roger.

Heather Kesler, an emergency medical technician (EMT), reaches behind to grab a pair of latex medical examination gloves. Approximately six minutes later, her partner Kristen Smith, turns the ambulance into the driveway of a highrise apartment complex.

Aware that the two beeps from the radio signified a code two - not a "lights and sirens" call - the two EMTs calmly roll out the gurney, and pick up the air-way bag and trauma box.

Upstairs, they enter the patient's residence; the Los Angeles Fire Department is already on the scene. One of them, seated comfortably in a sofa, explains the history of the injured woman to Kristen and Heather and mentions that she fell down after feeling slightly dizzy.

"This is going to hurt for a minute," says one of the firefighters - counting out, "One, two, three," as they carefully slide the 87-year-old woman onto the gurney.

The patient moans in pain. More pillows and blankets are stuffed around her. As the EMTs struggle to fit the gurney through the narrow doorways, trying to minimize the woman's pain, they reassure the hovering relative. "We'll take good care of her," they say.

Down in the lobby, Heather asks the patient to wiggle her toes. The white socks, peeking out from the medical blankets, give a little shake.

"How's your hip?" Heather asks.

The patient gives a muffled reply: "Horrible."

In the ambulance, Kristen's voice can be heard from the driver's side, communicating with someone on the radio. In the back, Heather takes the patient's vital signs.

The ambulance arrives at the UCLA emergency room and the patient is admitted into a room by a doctor wearing a "Peanuts" shirt.

"So now it's paperwork time," says Heather as she sits in a chair outside the hospital room.

From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Kristen, a UCLA alumna and manager of the UCLA emergency medical services (EMS), and Heather, a fourth-year math student, are on call.

At the police station, they perform other tasks: filling out police reports, and managing the front desk and lost and found, while waiting for the call.

It can come at any moment and may be for anything from an "open traffic accident" to a suicide. The majority of calls - 40.2 percent - are "medical" ones, while calls involving "fall" injuries (like the one described above) come in second with 16.7 percent.

In suspense they wait for the next emergency to occur.

"Some people think it's sick" that they wait for a call, Kristen said. "It's not. We don't want people to be sick, it's just that we're trained and we want to be able to do calls."

The truth is, EMTs go through extensive training and a rigorous selection process.

In order to qualify, an applicant must be a full-time UCLA student and have already attained California State EMT Certification. The application process involves three separate evaluations: one written, one physical and one practical.

One sample question from the written exam asks how many thoracic vertebrae there are. (There are 12). Another asks to identify the signs of hyperglycemia.

If all the exams are completed successfully, an interview may be conducted.

Training also involves a heavy amount of classes and simulations, as well as special sessions with a field training officer.

The EMS was created in 1979, as a result of the expanding campus and its growing need for emergency medical care. Currently, there are 15 students on staff.

"The program is student-run," Kristen said. "(We) have a lot of pressure and so many responsibilities. Granted, I'm the manager, but I put responsibilities on a lot of people."

Heather believes it's pressures like those that make a person mature.

"You grow up a lot in this program. People put their lives in your hands. All of that knowledge and experience raises your maturity level and responsibility," Heather said.

According to Heather, being enrolled in 12 units of class and working approximately 28 hours a week isn't unmanageable. Actually, she looks forward to work because of its "exciting" element.

"You never know what's going to happen," Heather said. "You do lots of simulations in training, so the

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