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Leadership/Management

Editors' Expressions: Professionals in the Making in Collegiate EMS

"Editors' Expressions" is a new weekly feature in which the EMS World editorial staff ruminates on current news, noteworthy events and everyday happenings with relevance to healthcare and EMS delivery. Feel free to react in the comment box below or e-mail editor@emsworld.com.

At the start of a recent shift at Temple University Emergency Medical Services (TUEMS), I took a seat at the table in the crew room. After some brief small talk with the providers on shift, one of them leaned back in his chair and folded his hands.  

“So,” he said. “We were talking about ethics in medicine before you got here.”

“Oh?” I said.

“Do you believe everyone has a right to healthcare?”

Because this topic had usually arisen in highly politicized contexts with other people, it was refreshing to be engaged in a reasonable discussion without an agenda—a genuine attempt to discuss the issue in the context of our own industry. A stimulating conversation ensued about some of the dysfunctional components of medicine in the U.S., and I was left wondering, Where were these likeminded people when I was in college? Though my close friends were like this, it was otherwise hard to come by other young people who enjoyed learning about important issues, challenged themselves and others to intelligently discuss them, and be receptive to differing opinions.

Despite working in the EMS industry for the last three years, I wasn’t aware of the existence of collegiate EMS systems until last fall when I enrolled in Temple University’s Master of Public Health program. I stumbled upon TUEMS while searching for clubs to get involved with at the school. Upon joining, I questioned members of the group about its operations and quickly learned how vastly undervalued and underestimated they are by the community—a problem not unique to this one collegiate EMS system.

The maturity, dedication, and passion demonstrated by the EMTs of TUEMS is impressive and was admittedly unexpected. As undergraduate students, they already have experience working in operations and administration: managing financial decisions with budgeting and funding, ensuring compliance with university, local, state and federal regulations, communicating with the TU Police Department, medical director, and directors of TU Emergency Management and Student Health Services, completing quality assurance of PCRs—the whole nine.

Aside from the fact that TUEMS doesn’t transport patients to the hospital, it is a full-fledged EMS agency offering a comparable level of service to its community relative to any other non-collegiate agency does to their community. Its providers deliver quality patient care on campus and the surrounding neighborhoods and work hard to continuously educate themselves on evidence-based care and improve their skills. TUEMS, and many other collegiate EMS systems, face many of the stresses common to other agencies; perhaps on a smaller scale, but nonetheless, they’re comprised of college students dedicating many hours of their time to faithfully serving their fellow students and surrounding communities.

If you work at a department that crosses paths with a local college’s EMS organization, make an effort to reach out to them. Let them know you support them and are available for guidance when needed. Running a student-led organization is no small task. Establishing a positive working relationship with them is key to ensuring smooth, coordinated care on calls. When you have the chance, offering your leadership and mentorship would serve as an invaluable teaching tool for young providers on their way to medical and public safety careers—help them learn and grow and soon you’ll have equipped an army of prepared and confident responders to serve your community.

Valerie Amato, NREMT is assistant editor of EMS World. Reach Val at vamato@emsworld.com.

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