By Lydia Glen
Trained first responders trained such as the St. John’s Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Squad respond to incidents across campus despite having low funding.
The EMT squad operates under the umbrella of Life Safety, from which they receive their primary funding and medical supplies, and the two organizations respond to medical emergencies together.
Although these groups work in tandem in response to medical emergencies on the SJU campus, the EMT squad is completely volunteer-based, while Life Safety officers are paid as a part of student employment. Even though the EMT squad is volunteer-based, between the roughly 20 members, there are always students “on duty” and carrying a pager so that the SJU campus is staffed as often as students are on campus.
“The EMT squad, Life Safety and the Fire Department are all part of one big team, and Life Safety provides both training and first responder materials,” Life Safety Officer Shawn Vierzba said.
However, the first responder materials for the EMT squad are frequently expired, not provided or not replaced when supplies are depleted.
“We did a bag check at the beginning of the semester, and every single medication that we carry as EMTs was expired—or we didn’t have it,” EMT Executive Board Member Tristen Zimmerman said.
As primary responders in a rural area, expired medications are dangerous and affect everyone on campus; in the case of allergic reactions, EMTs do not have epinephrine to administer, which could have potentially fatal consequences. Replacement medications take time to get to the EMT squad which make emergencies even more dangerous.
“Our students are not involved in the funding process. We get ideas from them, and they tell us what they absolutely need, and then it is up to the administrators to try to get funding for it,” Vierzba said.
The EMT squad is funded through Life Safety, so the EMT budget can be flexible, although money allocated to the EMT squad must come from some other place in the Life Safety budget.
The St. John’s Fire Department, by contrast, is funded by the Abbey, and is able to employ 16 student firefighters. The Fire Department is also works together with Life Safety and the EMT squad to ensure campus safety. The Fire Department owns the ambulance at St. John’s, which is operable by the EMTs, although the ambulance does not leave campus.
“We work together, but we are separate organizations,” student firefighter Joe Caugley said. “I think there should be greater collaboration between the EMT squad and Fire Department because we are serving the same purpose.”
The primary benefit students receive from being a part of the EMT squad is the experience in responding to medical emergencies, although the time commitment for a volunteer position can be a struggle for students to manage.
“This year I have spent more time and work toward EMT than I do to my paid position on campus,” Zimmerman said.
The time commitment is not the primary issue; however, the lack of on campus support is challenging for students who feel they are giving more to the school than they are receiving. Although EMTs are asked to staff events on campus, and do not receive enough funding to perform their job effectively, they do their jobs dutifully by enforcing campus safety.