Walking into North Lot, the first thing I saw were two emergency medical technicians seeming to put someone on a stretcher and into an ambulance. Not something you would typically want to see on the second day of college, but this wasn’t because of an emergency. RPI Ambulance was in the large lot putting on an event for Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond to teach incoming freshmen about the daily life of an EMT and some of the procedures they need to carry out. The agency also put on a mock call for the incoming students, if only to get their hearts pumping a little.
After an introduction by some of the RPIA officers in the Rensselaer Union, a dispatch was sent out: “RPI Ambulance with Troy Fire for a delta determinant motor vehicle accident, car vs. pedestrian, in RPI’s North Lot.” As the group began walking over to the incident location, RPIA’s flycar sped by, lights blazing and siren blaring. This was quickly followed by RPIA’s ambulance traveling in the same manner. On scene, two sophomore agency members—whom the NRB participants had not yet met—played driver and victim, with the latter bleeding severely from a detached leg. The ambulance crew wasted no time in stabilizing and transporting from the gruesome scene, despite Troy Fire Department being reported by the dispatcher to be “unavailable.” Freshman were finally informed that the accident was a mock call, and actors and assistants came from behind the scenes to begin the interactive portion of the day. After necessary introductions—the ones from earlier were cut short—freshmen were split into groups for a few fun activities, including a backboard water balloon race and water balloon toss, as well as touring the ambulance and flycar. The students were then split into five groups and rotated around five stations: stretcher training, bleeding and fracture procedures, spinal injury protocol, hands-only CPR, and vital signs. At each of these groups, trained EMTs from RPI Ambulance explained how to perform several different life-saving procedures.
Each of the EMTs was knowledgeable and was clear and concise in his or her explanation. After spending only a few minutes listening in at the different stations, I’m fairly confident I could get someone safely on a stretcher and into an ambulance or properly brace a person’s neck after an injury. I probably couldn’t take someone’s blood pressure quite yet; the EMTs said that takes a lot of practice to get used to.
One of the stations taught how to put a neck brace, called a cervical collar, on an injured person and then put them on a long backboard—used to splint the spine to prevent further damage. After placing the victim on the board, the trainees needed to give the victim further support for his or her neck by placing blocks on either side of the already braced neck, and strapping the victim in place. This way, the neck would not move while the victim was transported around, preventing further injury to the neck or spine.
One of the less exciting, but nonetheless more important stations, was the hands-only CPR station. Students were told some of the facts about CPR and survival rate: a person going into cardiac arrest who isn’t given CPR only has a 3–8% chance of survival, but hands-only CPR, from even a bystander, can help to increase those chances to around 30%. Though CPR may be very tiring, it is definitely worth doing if it can increase a person’s chance of living by a significant amount.
RPI Ambulance has been serving this campus for 32 years, and they serve 24 hours a day. They have roughly 40 members, including 20 or so dedicated members. All of them have at least some minor medical training, several are EMTs, and one is training to be a paramedic. Former members have also gone to school to be critical-care technicians, a New York state certification higher than an EMT and similar to a paramedic. Not only are these men and women going to classes every day like the rest of us, but they are ready outside the classroom to respond in case of an emergency.
A Day in the Life of an EMT seemed to be one of the more promising NRB trips this year. They had dedicated EMTs and other personnel helping to teach already knowledgeable students to perhaps become EMTs later in their life. Many participants have already signed up for an upcoming EMT course offered through a Rensselaer County program. More EMTs is never a bad thing; the more people trained in the profession, the more people there are that can save lives in case of an emergency. Witnessing this event gave me a great respect for the students of RPI Ambulance.