They sprint past you when you are on your way to class. They wear dark jackets with large gray letters sewn on the back: "EMS". As they run past, you hear tinny voices speaking coded lingo over hand-held radios. If you know any medics personally, you have probably seen them hurrying away from parties-and not because of bad onion dip.
The medics you see around you on campus are continuing an important part of CMU tradition. Since the organization was founded in 1984, it has steadily grown not only in its capabilities but also in the respect it receives from the campus community. It has continued developing policies and connections to facilitate its operations.
CMU EMS started by working special events such as Spring Carnival and the Beaux-Arts Ball. The organization also took one to 20 calls a month via voice pager. EMS is currently active twenty-four hours a day seven days a week while school is in session and during breaks as personnel schedules allow. It receives five hundred calls a year; one or two per day.
The expansion of CMU EMS is not an isolated event. The National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation (NCEMSF) has continued to grow since its inception in 1993 and now includes over 150 schools. New EMS groups still in the developing stage continue to join the NCEMSF to share information and gain recognition.
The NCEMSF recognizes a wide variety of EMS groups. Basic Life Support (BLS) organizations have the tools to stabilize someone with serious injury or illness for 10 minutes; long enough to transport the individual to a hospital.
Intermediate Life Support (ILS) organizations can give basic medications in addition to performing BLS functions. They also perform certain invasive procedures, such as intubation-placing a breathing tube in someone's throat.
Advanced Life Support (ALS) members know a lot about body chemistry and physiology and demonstrate competency in a wide range of medical procedures. They are paramedics capable of treating a variety of injuries. ALS organizations have at least one person available at all times who is ALS trained.
Carnegie Mellon's EMS is a basic life support and quick response service. CMU EMS Operations Manager Michael Subelsky points out, "A lot can be handled by BLS. The average call tends to place more demand on our social skills than on our medical skills. When our medical skills are in demand, however, we are ready and capable."
All active EMS members serve a minimum of one shift each month; shifts are four days in length. While on duty, members are required to carry a radio, latex gloves, CMU EMS identification and a CPR protective barrier. The protective barrier allows CPR to be performed while minimizing the possibility of germs being spread through saliva.
Whether or not CMU students have ever been injured or become very ill, they tend to be grateful for the presence of CMU EMS. They appreciate the quick response and professional manner of EMS volunteers and value the peace of mind the organization gives them. David Reinoehl, a senior Creative Writing major, comments, "It's good knowing that they are around and able to provide immediate care. They have a good response time and get to the scene faster than a Pittsburgh ambulance would."
The birth and growth of university EMS organizations across the country reflects their desire to meet increasing standards. Medics continue to volunteer their time not only to help others, but also to test themselves in a way that no other activity or profession can. As programs and members become more professional, they gain respect and receive more funding which in turn enables them to increase their capabilities. The Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo), for example, recently received a Ford Explorer from an anonymous donor. The truck contains most materials found on an ambulance, therefore increasing the potential of the organization.
This steady improvement is expected to continue indefinitely. As long as there are people getting injured and others looking to help and be challenged, the standards of professionalism in university EMS organizations across the nation will continue to rise. In discussing the future of EMS, Subelsky said, "I expect to see more professional service, the current trend in EMS units across the nation. We will continue to see better training equipment, more money, more people."