“Students Helping Students Since 1965,” the motto you will see as our campus emergency medical services goes by, sirens blaring, on a call.
What started out with a staff between five to eight students running out of a van, the campus EMS has grown to staff of 23 with a truck and a new quick response vehicle.
The staff of 16 part-time “rookies” and seven staff members is dedicated to providing basic life support of all students, faculty and staff 24 hours whenever classes are in session.
“It started when I started here at Western,” said Tyler Stafford, assistant chief of WCU EMS, when asked what made him join the EMS. “I knew there was an ambulance service. I just didn’t know it was student run. And, one night I was sitting in my dorm room and just hearing them go to a call and the sirens and looking out the window like, ‘what’s going on.’ It made me miss home. When I found out it was student run, I knew it was a good way for me to further my skills and get some knowledge in the EMS system [be]cause, ultimately, when I’m done here I want to work with EMS.”
Back home, Stafford worked with his local fire department and would run medical calls. He missed his job until finding and joining the EMS program.
Allison Joseph, lieutenant of WCU EMS, also worked for a fire service back home and did medical calls. Joseph joined the program after hanging out at the base, located in Robertson, and learned that the group of guys working there were a good group. By volunteering, she could get experience with clinical skills and patient contact.
As far as calls go, EMS will respond to anything from a stubbed toe to respiratory distress to seizures located on campus and the Health and Human Science campus.
“It can go from the most minimal thing to the most extreme,” said Stafford.
Once on the scene, EMS does a ‘across the room’ assessment. They walk in and observe.
“Brain broke, heart broke, lungs broke,” as Joseph said. “If they’re looking at you their brain’s not broke, if they’re pale their heart is kind of broke, if they look like they’re in respiratory distress, their lungs [are] broke. That’s usually our first clues.”
From there, whoever is on scene will gather patient history, vital signs, and can provide oxygen and some medicines. If it is a “straight basic call,” as stated by Joseph, they can decide to transport them or not.
“If the call seems bad enough, we can call MedWest,” said Joseph. “But, we can transport them to the Bird Building or the hospital, and that’s a free ride from us; we are a free service.”
The EMS operates under the Jackson County Medical Director and the Medical Director WCU’s on campus.
“We are a division of MedWest,” said Stafford. “We are under their protocols.”
So far this year, EMS has responded to over 160 calls, an increase from the roughly 90 calls they had this same time last year.
The WCU EMS base is located in Robertson, which holds a specific hall for the base. It holds patient care reports, officer quarters and a part-time room for rookies that need to stay there while on shift. The room has a TV, Xbox, computer and kitchen; it is essentially a mini apartment for their shift.
For those interested in joining the WCU EMS program, you do not have to be in the Emergency Medical Care program to join. Any major can join as long as you fit their requirement. You have to be 18-years-old; to be an officer, you must have a 2.5 GPA; for a part-time job, you must have a 2.0; you must be in good academic standing with the campus. There are also specific certifications required. You must have your North Carolina EMT basic or be nationally registered, a driver’s license, CPR certification, do the FEMA Incident Command System courses, which are 100, 200, 700 and recently 800 and immunization requirements. Students also need to sign and read a HIPPA confidentiality agreement, patient confidentiality act, have CEVO Certification, emergency vehicle operations, within two months of getting hired.
The job is paid, however, as Stafford said, “If you hear anyone say they’re doing it for the money, they’re lying. It’s for the shear pleasure of helping people. I love helping people.”
For those interested in joining the program, you can walk up to the base in Robertson or email email@example.com.