I’m not really sure what I expected when I went on an RPI Ambulance ride-along. What I got was a long night where I learned a whole lot and got insight about a great and important service on campus.
Not many people really understand what RPI ambulance is or what the club actually does. RPI ambulance is a student-run ambulance program. Their current ambulance is a 2006 model, and their new “Forester”—which is fully stocked and capable—is a great addition that shows how serious the program is. The club is in operation twenty-four/seven, and responds to all 911 calls that occur on campus. If they are ever needed, they are readily available at 911. RPIA is a completely certified ambulance agency in Rensselaer County. The club runs as if it were an ambulance agency for a small town with over 5000 people, except it is fully run by students. In this semester alone, there have been 25 calls so far, which is more than one a day, some being from surrounding towns. If any areas or towns are in need of assistance, RPIA will lend a helping hand as well. RPIA also covers football and hockey games, along with other special events. They also offer occasional CPR classes to students. Overall, the club provides a very important and respectable service for our community and many others.
To become a part of this club, you sign up and become an observer. Before you are allowed to do anything, you must watch an OSHA video, where you learn some basic safety and risks of being in an ambulance. Afterwards, you learn basic skills such as how to work the stretcher. There is a checklist of basic skills, lectures, etc. that you must complete. Once you have completed them all, you become an attendant. However, this checklist cannot be completed very fast—it takes time, effort and dedication. Also, you also can sign up to work certain nights with the crews as an observer. As an attendant, you are more knowledgeable and are able to actually participate in helping out on a call. After a lot of experience and training, you can then go to being either a driver or a crew chief. Both require a lot of training and special tests. The next level one can reach is a trainer, but that takes a lot of time and experience in general.
Now, are these any requirements to become an observer? No, none at all. Basically, you just need to “have a heartbeat.” But remember, take being an observer extremely seriously.
This may seem overwhelming—trust me, I know—but it is extremely important. This club takes dedication and time, but it is an enormously rewarding thing to do.
If it wasn’t pretty obvious, everyone at RPIA is extremely qualified and dedicated. They take this volunteer work extremely seriously, as if it were a job. The students involved in this program give a tremendous amount of their time to this program. However, they still manage all of their school work, other clubs, and greek life! I, for one, feel a lot safer with this great club on campus.
The ride-along itself was very humbling, interesting, fun, and instructing. The shift I went on was from 6 pm to 6 am. Yes, a full 12 hour shift—but you are allowed to sleep. Sadly, there were no calls the night I went on my ride-along, but that is just my luck. Still even if there were no calls, the group still manages to have a lot of fun. On Friday nights, they even have cookouts and watch movies during their shifts. The entire night is very fun, and the amount you can learn is amazing as well. One of my favorite parts of the night was seeing how interested the observers were in what they were learning, and how helpful, kind, and encouraging the trainers were.
If you are interested in this club, a job that involves the medical field, or even just looking for a humbling and fun experience, I would definitely recommend being an observer. You never know if you will be happy in a field unless you try it! You never know what could happen! And if you do find out that RPIA is something that you love to do, it can be the perfect basis for a future career.