“Being woken up is seldom a happy feeling,” says Keith Willner ’11. As a student emergency medical technician (EMT), Willner is on call when dispatch-radio static disrupts his nighttime slumber. His response to the noise, and a 2 a.m. scramble out of bed, must be immediate. “It’s gotten to the point where the radio no longer bothers my roommate,” he laughs.
Willner is one of about 25 student volunteer EMTs who serve on a rotating schedule under the supervision of coordinator and registered nurse Diann Lynch. They are honored this week as part of National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Week. Three EMTs are on call at all times. Their hallmark identifiers are a bright red sling bag and the radio that dispatches them when someone on campus needs medical attention.
Students interested in becoming EMTs undergo one-on-one as well as group interviews that test their reactions to certain scenarios and their ability to cooperate with others. “EMTs have to work as a team, so if you totally dominate during the group session, there’s a good chance you won’t make the cut,” Willner explains.
Because they can relate to one another’s experiences, the students find that many fellow EMTs are also their close friends, Willner says. His additional work with the Central Oneida County Volunteer Ambulance Corps has also made him realize that there’s more to being on call than just the thrill of it. “At first, I found it exciting that I was going to experience this,” he says. “But when you’re out there with a real person in a real situation, that’s where the learning starts.”