I had no plans of joining Muhlenberg College EMS when I first stepped foot on campus. Like many nervous first-years, I scoured the Muhlenberg College website for clubs and opportunities to get involved with, briefly scanning over the MCEMS entry and wistfully regretting the fact that I was just not built for it. I wasn’t certified, I was somewhat queasy—despite my slight interest in medicine—it was never something I truly considered as an opportunity that was open for myself.
Luckily, I decided to push myself outside of my comfort zone; after heavy encouragement from a friend, I started out on the MCEMS journey that led me here, to this article, today. I interviewed (I still remember the weird smell of the 22nd street apartment basement), I got accepted (oml!), I spent over $100 for fancy pants and really heavy boots (like I need to be taller than I already am), went through my first Basic Life Support CPR class (for which I had to carve out four hours of my classic overcommitted Muhlenberg life), had my first shift (as per Murphy’s law, I was woken up at 2:30 AM), and was called for my first college drunk person (not my last, but not as common as people think).
Over the summer of 2022 I took my EMT course (required within the first year of joining) and got to learn a lot more about A&P (anatomy and physiology), meds (medications), ABC’s (airway, breathing, circulation) and so many other acronyms and shortcuts that it almost felt like I was learning a new language. The instructors threw us head-first into medical and trauma scenarios with mannequins that seemed so real and yet malfunctioned every other day. My favorite experience was helping to deliver a pregnant mannequin with two of my classmates, covered in fake blood and lube, with the instructor yelling at us as the patient from another room.
Most of all, I learned about patient care, communication and expectations. I realized that when we arrive on scene most patients look to us for reassurance and for level-headedness, a degree of trust I will never disrespect. My most valuable EMT experiences have revolved around directly communicating with patients, trying to break the tension with jokes and attempting to convey expectations when performing any sort of treatment or care. Like many others in my field, I can make mistakes, but I always know that I can rely on others on MCEMS to answer my questions, give me feedback or steer me in the right direction to finding my own answers.
My learning picked up when I started getting practical experience in the fall of 2022 as an EMT—first as a probationary member and then, following a competency period, a general member—and continues every time I get a call or attend an MCEMS mandatory meeting or training. We are all constantly learning – about conditions, patients, ourselves and each other, in an attempt to provide the best patient care we can for the Muhlenberg College student body.
So what would motivate a person in their right mind to volunteer (FOR FREE! We actually don’t get paid) to take a $1500-3000 course, eliminate (read: renounce) their right to control their free time for 15 or 24 hours (depending on how long we are “on call” for) several times a month to respond to the medical whims of the student body (or to wake up at the crack of dawn just to schlep across campus)?
Let me give you our elevator pitch. As mentioned above, we are a (mostly) ~selfless~ volunteer crew (some of us, like me, join only because we look good in the uniform) operating a quick response service unit, also known as our cute little truck Jimmy that you might notice around campus (see attached picture for emphasis). We are composed of EMTs and future EMTs dedicated to providing quick, confidential and high quality emergency medical care to the Muhlenberg community at large.
In all seriousness, though, my process of joining MCEMS and going through the required avenues to rank up has been one of the most valuable experiences of my college career. Getting to respond to calls and treat patients instills a sense of purpose in me every time I wear the navy and navy and navy (and a little black) uniform and has taught me so much about who I want to be and what I want to accomplish in life. Operating alongside other EMTs means that I get to learn both through my own experiences as well as from others, who hold the place of teachers, mentors and friends in my life. Together, we collaborate to create the best organization we can to serve the greater community in whatever medical capacity it needs.