Student EMTs find balance between course work, helping others
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 02:03
Bryan Fischer served in Iraq for 15 months on the front line. Natalie Thomas is a math education major working on her Master’s degree. Samuel Grady has a business degree and is on his way to Cornell to become a physician’s assistant.
They have one thing in common that sets them apart from ordinary students: They’re our EMTs.
EMTs are Emergency Medical Technicians. About 25 of the volunteers at McGregor Memorial are UNH students. They balance schoolwork, a social life, sleep, and a nightlife most people wouldn’t expect.
Chris Lemelin, an EMT and one of the administrators at McGregor Emergency Medical Services, said that UNH EMTs are not commonplace.
“The sort of person who comes and volunteers here and puts in the time — to get up in the night and take care of an elderly person who fell — is responsible,” he said. “(UNH EMTs) pass time a little bit differently than their peers.”
With different interests, the motivation to volunteer as an EMT is unique. The majority of UNH EMTs are interested in a future medical career.
“Reasons and motives vary,” Lemelin said. “They’re interested in medicine and helping people. If they were just interested in volunteering, there are easier jobs out there.”
Bryan Fischer studies nutrition and wellness and is in his senior year. While he did nothing medical in the U.S. Army Infantry, he now wants to get into health care. When asked how it was in Iraq, his light-hearted response was: “Hot.”
From the battlefield to an ambulance, the settings seem different, but the appeal is clear to Fischer.
“Emergency medicine is such a fun field,” he said. “(It) gives the same rush as combat but without a lot of the danger. And you know you’re going to potentially help somebody.”
Fischer said that McGregor EMS differs from other emergency services because of its volunteer operation.
“(The volunteers) aren’t motivated by money,” Fischer said. “They do it primarily because they’re interested in the medical field and want to progress.”
EMTs sacrifice their time and energy to help people at their worst and most vulnerable. As an emergency medical operation, McGregor’s volunteers are trained extensively to handle every situation. Around the local community, McGregor is a trusted service.
Cassidy Sye, UNH freshman, tore his meniscus playing soccer on Oct. 25, 2012 at the Whittemore Center. He was taken to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover in a McGregor Ambulance. Sye is in the pre-medical program and had some knowledge of EMT services beforehand.
“I trusted them,” Sye said. “If they didn’t seem to know what they were doing, I would’ve said something.”
The McGregor website invites volunteers to go on ambulance calls and serve a minimum of 32 volunteer hours per month. Natalie Thomas said that most volunteers do over 60.
Thomas has been an EMT for almost three years. She is a math education major in an organization full of medical field hopefuls. While her position is unique, her reason for getting and staying involved is commonplace around McGregor.
“It’s a great learning experience, and (I) really get to give back to the community. It’s hard to describe it,” she said with a long pause. “McGregor has a great cultural feel. I’ve met people there that I know I’m going keep in touch with for the rest of my life.”
Though Thomas is not headed toward a job in a medical field, she said that being an EMT is a great way to start a college career. She has learned to apply her skills as an EMT to other settings.
“Classroom management-wise, being an EMT has helped me a lot,” she said. “Working with preteens all at once, you learn useful skills to be able to step back and prioritize and keep everyone organized.”
McGregor EMTs both give and receive when it comes to their experiences. They dedicate themselves without a promised payback, and they said the experience is worth their troubles.
When asked what it is like driving an ambulance, Sam Grady grinned and his eyes lit up.
“Oh, I love it,” he said. “It’s cool.”
Grady has been an EMT for a little over two years. At one point, he had to balance his EMT career and his duties as an RA in Williamson Hall. RAs and EMTs must follow different protocols to ensure the best care to the injured person.
With conflicting roles, Grady had to make sure he could keep his duties aligned at the appropriate time.
“When I was on duty as an RA, I was an RA,” he said. “When I was an EMT, I was an EMT. It was hard to separate the two. I needed to get the hang of it.”
Because McGregor services Madbury, Lee and Durham, the EMTs work with the UNH campus. Being an RA, an EMT and a UNH student, Grady has been responsible for taking care of people he knows.