Stayin’ Alive: Students Pursue EMT Certification

by Miranda Katz, Assistant Features Editor

Not sure what to do in an emergency? WesEMT has your back. Every Sunday, a group of students meets with an outside instructor for an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification course. The course runs for two semesters, at the end of which students take both a written and practical exam before receiving their licenses.

Instructor Emily Masters has been teaching since 1994, but she didn’t always want to work in the health services.

“I didn’t want to be an EMT,” Masters said. “My best friend was an EMT in a neighboring town, and they were teaching a course. I had a teenage son at the time, and she said, ‘If anything happens to your son, don’t you want to know how to fix him?’”

While she was training to become an EMT, Masters was present at the scene of an accident in her town that resulted in the deaths of multiple teenagers, including a friend of her son’s.

“Someone yelled out, ‘Does anyone know CPR?’” Masters recalled. “I was one of two people who knew how to do it. That’s what made me realize that I liked knowing what to do in an emergency. I quit my job as a bank manager, I went from being a normal mom to an abnormal mom, and I worked at the hospital nights while going to paramedic school during the days.”

Though Masters came into her career as a paramedic and instructor rather unintentionally, most students enrolled in the WesEMT class are interested in working in health care professions. Aviv Fraiman ’15, who took the course last year and now acts as Masters’ teaching assistant, explained that she felt working as an EMT would be good practice for a future career.

“I want to go to medical school, and I thought that this would show me the ropes,” Fraiman said. “Most people here are interested in medical school. I think that a lot of people who want to go to medical school also want to help other people, and this is a way we can do it: by working as an EMT.”

Although having EMT certification can be beneficial when it comes to medical school admissions, this is hardly the main motive for students involved. Jordan Fragen ’16, who is currently enrolled in the course, agreed with Fraiman that the greatest incentive for certification is the opportunity to help others.

“I think that being an EMT lets us give back to the community as well as be more prepared,” Fragen said. “It’s really empowering to be able to know what to do in emergency situations. If you know how to take care of someone’s most basic needs, then you’re able to better take care of the people around you.”

The course is part interactive lecture, part hands-on experience. Throughout the year, students put in approximately 180 hours both inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to the three-hour Sunday class, students must volunteer 10 clinical hours at Middlesex Hospital, where they assess and interview patients, take vital signs, and report on the patients’ conditions. They must do so for a minimum of 10 patients and receive written documentation of their experiences. In the course, Masters places an emphasis on teaching students not only how to follow procedure, but also how to be flexible in situations one might not find in a textbook.

“The focus is student-centered learning,” Masters said. “I’m teaching them the basics now, but once we get into the medical and trauma portions of it, they’re going to teach each other in small groups. The goal is that when students get out of this class with their certification, they’ll be able to perform as an EMT [in] an ambulance, on a rescue, or in an emergency room.”

Once students are certified they can apply their skills in the real world. Fraiman, who worked as an EMT in Israel this past summer, found the experience more subdued than she had imagined, but no less educational or interesting.

“I thought I was going to be able to see more things happen, that it’d be more intense,” Fraiman said. “It didn’t turn out that way, but it was still really nice, and they gave me a lot of responsibility. It’s interesting to see how people relate to those who are sick and the communication that goes on there.”

While Wesleyan does not have a student-run EMT service, students interested in working in the area can volunteer through Hunter Ambulance or the Middletown or Cromwell Fire Departments. After they volunteer for a satisfactory amount of time, students can become part-time, paid EMTs. Michael Creager ’15, who was certified last year though the WesEMT course, now works several shifts a week in Cromwell. He reports that he has encountered a wide variety of situations while working.

“You could spend a six-hour shift waiting for a call, or you could spend the entire time bouncing between different calls,” Creager said. “Some of my experiences have been slightly traumatic, and some have been pretty simple. I’ve observed calls where it’s an elderly person complaining of a stomachache, and we bring them to the ER to figure out if there’s anything wrong. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t.”

Overall, students seem attracted to the EMT program not because of its resume-boosting abilities or potential salary, but because of the security in knowing how to respond to an emergency and the gratification in helping those in crisis.

“The best part of being an EMT is when you help people,” Creager said. “The hardest part is when you can’t.”

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