There are heroes among us. They hide behind the façade of average students stressed about midterms, but unlike the rest of us, they help save lives. They are part-time Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and full-time students.
According to EMT and teaching assistant of the EMT class Uma Dieffenbach ’17, the class meets once a week on Sundays for two and a half hours. The University brings in a licensed instructor each year to teach the almost year-long course.
“The course teaches students all about pre-hospital care at the [EMT] level,” Dieffenbach said. “We prepare students to take two exams at the end of the course in order to gain your EMT certification: a written, multiple choice exam and a practical skills exam in which students are presented with possible emergency scenarios and must decide how to provide care for these patients. In order to pass the class, students must take a number of online quizzes and attend TA sessions every week in the later half of the year.”
In addition to serving as an outlet to help students obtain an EMT certificate, the class also teaches students practical skills such as how to administer an Epi Pen, how to take vital signs, how to perform CPR, how to operate an AED, how to perform trauma assessments, how to take medical histories, how to stabilize fractures and dislocations, and how to bandage and dress wounds—to name just a few skills.
“The EMT course also requires students to spend ten hours observing in the Middlesex Hospital Emergency Room,” Dieffenbach said. “This allows students to think about how they would handle certain cases in the field if they were dispatched to that call.”
It is only after a student has managed to complete the EMT class and pass two exams that they receive a National EMT Certification and a State of Connecticut EMT license.
“Students can then volunteer at ambulance services in neighboring towns, which is an invaluable experience especially for those interested in pursuing a career in health professions,” Dieffenbach said. “By getting your EMT certification, you gain the ability to actually treat patients hands-on in a pre-hospital setting. Often, EMTs are the first people on scene and the first to assess and treat the patient for whatever ailment they may have.”
The EMT program is partially funded by the WSA, according to another TA and local EMT Anastasia Almyasheva ’17. Almyasheva also spoke about how the program is open to all students.
“We have had students who are interested in camping and wanted to have a more solid basic life support knowledge,” Almyasheva said. “We have also, perhaps unsurprisingly, had students who are pre-med and are interested in getting some real hands-on experience as an EMT.”
Almyasheva went to the University’s Student Groups Fair at the beginning of her first year and signed up for the class. She fell into the second category of students: the eager-pre-med. Since completing the course she has started working as an EMT at the Haddam Volunteer Ambulance Service.
“During the program, I was able to get a glimpse of what emergency medical work is like by shadowing nurses and doctors in the emergency room at Middlesex Hospital for 10 hours,” Almyasheva said. “Since that time, I have become enchanted with emergency medicine. It has been eye-opening and wonderful, especially for someone like me who learns best through hands-on experiences.”
Anna Melio ’16, another seasoned EMT who has worked as a patient care technician at an emergency room north of Chicago and currently works as an EMT for Cromwell Ambulance, as well as being a TA for the class for three years, is also pre-med.
“I started the EMT program because I was premed but because there was no one in my family who was in medicine I wanted to understand if I was actually interested in pursuing this, or could even handle situations that doctors were put into,” she wrote in an email to The Argus. “I have loved being EMT certified, and it has helped me understand that medicine is what I want to pursue.”
Dieffenbach works at the Haddam Volunteer Ambulance Service with Almyasheva. Her story is similar to Almyasheva’s and Melio’s in that she is a pre-med student, but she, on the other hand, grew up in a family of doctors who instilled an interest in medicine in her.
“My mom was an emergency room doctor for twenty years, and I was always a little bit scared to visit her at work,” Dieffenbach said. “As I grew older, I found her stories about the patients she saw interesting and thrilling, and started to see emergency medicine as solving bits of a puzzle.”
Becoming an EMT and taking this course at the University helped solidify Dieffenbach’s desire to attend medical school in the future.
“Even on my first call, I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do with my life,” Dieffenbach said. “Right now I want to gain clinical experience in any way I can, even though it is so early in my medical career. Being an EMT has taught me when to lead and when to follow, and how to think on my feet and interact with people who are often scared out of their minds.”
Katie Hohl ’19 ,who is currently taking this class, is at the beginning of a journey similar to those of the seasoned EMTs. She is particularly enjoying the instructor, Emily Masters’s, teaching style.
“I think my favorite part of the program is hearing [Masters’] stories,” Hohl said. “Some are very intense and shocking, while others are more lighthearted and even funny. The intense ones don’t leave your mind quickly, but knowing what it’s really like out in the field is invaluable. I’m very glad that I signed up for the class.”
This class truly put things in perspective for Almyasheva. Working as an EMT is her way of doing more than checking off requirements to get into a medical school.
“The course has taught me so much about myself and my goals and has helped me find meaning in all of this busy work with pre-med requirements,” Almyasheva said. “[It] has given me so many amazing experiences. I really wish that anyone who is interested, pre-med or not, would take it because the knowledge I have gained there has saved many lives and will save even more if it reaches more people.”