Adam Van Handel, '15, captain of Lehigh University Emergency Medical Services, removes supplies from the back of his truck on Nov. 2. LUEMS works to ensure the safety of the Lehigh community. (Klaudia Jazwinska/B&W photo)

Student EMTs discuss requirements, rewards of Lehigh EMS


It’s a Saturday night on Lehigh’s “Hill.” A student is found passed out and unresponsive after too much alcohol consumption. Friends are in a panic about what to do. They need help.

It’s mid-day on a warm spring day. A student is walking to class when he is suddenly stung by a bee. He goes into allergic shock. He doesn’t know what to do because he has never been stung before. He need help.

It’s a winter morning after a heavy snow shower. Lehigh’s grounds team has yet to spread salt on the pathways. A student falls and breaks her arm. She needs help.

There are several situations that occur on a college campus that call for quick and efficient help for students. An organization aimed at providing this assistance is the Lehigh University Emergency Medical Services.

The Lehigh EMS has been actively helping students on campus since 1990.

Lehigh’s EMS is a state-licensed Quick Response Service, and many Lehigh students are involved in the organization. Getting involved in EMS is simple and open to anyone, and student involvement ranges from pre-med to journalism majors.

“A lot of students find us at the club fair,” EMS Captain Adam Van Handel, ’15, said. “We also get a lot of people that email us, asking about joining the organization.”

Once a student shows interest in joining EMS, he or she is required to fill out a written application. The application process involves an interview to determine the sincere interest of the applicant, Van Handel said.

As the New Member Coordinator, Jenny Hornig ’15, reviews and interviews all of the applicants. She then helps prospective members to go through training as an observer before they look to become a recognized EMT by the state.

Hornig said that as observers, prospective members, who do not yet have their certification but are interested in being a part of EMS, can gain a sense for what it is like to be an EMT. During this training, observers help with getting equipment from the truck and filling out patient and incident information.

In an effort to help students get their EMT license, Lehigh works with North Hampton Community College. Students have the option of getting certified and possibly reimbursed by taking classes at the community college, and most students take the course in the summer or winter months.

According to Van Handel, the certification course varies state to state, but all EMTs take an average of 200 hours of courses to become certified.

The course covers, “everything from traumas, falls, car accidents to medical calls,” Van Handel said. “They’ll go through various medical conditions. Diabetes is a relatively common emergency call.”

Someone on EMS is on call 24 hours a day throughout the school year.

Van Handel explained that the time commitment for EMS members is huge. A call can come in at any point of the day, and those on call must report to help the individual in need. Van Handel said that this can be stressful for the people involved in EMS, as they are students, too. With a uniform on and a radio attached to the hip, EMS members have to go to class just like every other student. In most cases, professors are understanding of each EMS’s duties.

Administrative Second Lieutenant, Steven Waskie, ’16, has been involved in EMS since spring 2013. Waskie is in charge of the scheduling of EMS based on the schedule submissions of each student involved. Once each person submits his or her availability, Waskie puts together a calendar. EMS runs on a 12-hour-shift scheduling system, one day and one night. The day shift is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the night shift from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

According to the EMS website, the average response time for EMS to respond to a call is about four minutes, compared to an average of 10 minutes that the City of Bethlehem ambulance would take. When a call comes in, there are three people that report to the scene: a crew chief that drives the truck, an EMT and an observer.

Although being a member of EMS is a large commitment, members often find the experience rewarding.

“It’s nice to know that I can make an impact on the Lehigh Community,” said Brandon Ling, ’17, a first lieutenant.

Waskie agreed.

“It’s very rewarding,” he said. “I feel that we provide and excellent service to the university and the community. It’s very personally rewarding.”

In case of a medical emergency one can call Lehigh police, which will then dispatch the EMS, at 610-758-4200.

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