After more than two years of planning and an “insane” amount of training, the students finally got what they wanted — bicycles packed with oxygen tanks and automated external defibrillators.
The Temple Emergency Medical Services organization is now riding alongside Campus Police to assess and treat student injuries.
The 10-member student EMS force began patrolling on Jan. 24 and is on duty Thursday and Friday nights from 7:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Within each team of two or three EMS members, there is at least one state-certified emergency medical technician and a first responder.
Temple Police Capt. Denise Wilhelm said this medical experience has provided a new level of treatment for students.
“They’re a higher standard of caregiver than we are,” she said.
The EMS presence has also allowed Wilhelm to send fewer police officers to a minor medical incident.
“It frees up an officer to maintain high visibility on his route and maybe help out a pedestrian,” she said. “Some nights when things are really busy, if you have to send an officer for food poisoning you know you’re taking them away from other needs.”
Temple EMS students are wired to Campus Police’s radio system, but they may work with the Philadelphia Fire Department’s EMS teams if a patient is in more serious condition.
“You might have somebody that’s critically ill or injured and needs the help of the paramedics,” said Zachary Reichenbach, a first-year medical student and one of the four founding EMS students. “In that case, we’d be on the scene providing care and basic life support measures until EMS arrives.”
Temple EMS members are equipped to handle cases ranging from broken limbs and burns to alcohol poisoning and cardiac arrest.
“Earlier, we had a patient at the Liacouras Center who collapsed,” said Peter Seltzer, a senior entrepreneurship and environmental science major. “Two minutes later, we were able to be on scene and get her the medical attention she needed.”
To become an EMS member, students must take a 50-hour first responder course to learn how to initially assess and attend to a patient. While other universities offer the course for credit, the class Seltzer teaches is in addition to university coursework.
After passing the state first responder test, students also spend 16 hours in Temple Hospital’s emergency room. They must complete a four-hour radio communications course and a 32-hour International Police Mountain Bike Association course that teaches them to maneuver safely around campus.
Medical equipment on the bicycles weighs anywhere from 35 to 50 pounds.
“When the cops are zooming by us, don’t judge us,” joked Eva Cantor, a junior art history major. “They don’t have all that stuff on the pack.”
There are more than 200 campus-based EMS organizations in the nation, many of which are student-staffed. Many schools in Pennsylvania offer the service, including Penn State University, Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Temple EMS participants said they hope to increase its 10-person membership as more students complete their training requirements. They said they would like to send EMS members to stand by at large events like graduations, concerts or dances.
“We want to be more visible,” said Paul Grodziak, a senior architecture major. “We’d like to work more nights a week, Thursday through Sunday.”
EMS members said the organization was created to add to, not replace, Campus Safety programs.
“They’re in here every week talking to us,” Wilhelm said. “They’re part of us now, really. They’re a breath of fresh air.”
Mel McKrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org