Katherine Stenersen, member of the Lehigh University EMS team, facilitates the COVID-19 Surveillance Testing at Zoellner Arts Center. As of June 28 masks and social distancing are no longer required on campus for vaccinated individuals. (Marlee Deutsch/B&W Staff)

EMS provides quick emergency services to campus community

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Since 1990, Lehigh University Emergency Medical Services has provided quick, emergency assistance to students, faculty, staff, visitors and others on Lehigh’s campus. 

LUEMS is a Quick Response Service licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In the event of an emergency, an EMS member is one of the first people to arrive on scene, along with an LUPD officer. According to their website, LUEMS averages a four minute response time, while a City of Bethlehem ambulance takes up to 15 minutes to arrive on campus. 

EMT David Peterson, ‘21, said LUEMS responders are like any other student, but they must have their radio and bag on them at all times during a shift to respond to any potential emergency calls. 

“EMTs are just normal students,” Peterson said. “You can go to class, do your homework, sleep during a night shift and just be a student.” 

Peterson said the most common calls LUEMS receives are from patients that have fainted, lost consciousness or who had trouble breathing. Peterson said there have been less alcohol-related calls this school year than in years’ past. 

Steve Lewis, staff advisor of LUEMS, also said that there is a range of severity and variety of calls. Lewis said there are low acuity calls, such as someone needing reassurance and someone with medical training, but also high acuity calls like cardiac arrest issues. 

“I think sometimes people think that EMS is merely reserved for those life threatening emergencies,” Lewis said. “In actuality, we want people to call whenever they have any concern or question because we think that is the best way to not only serve this campus, but also make our reputation better known among the faculty, staff and students that we serve.” 

Members of LUEMS are split into three ranks: explorer, EMT and crew chief. Explorers are members who are interested in EMS, but don’t have EMT certification. Peterson said explorers are required to become an EMT within two semesters of joining. EMTs are promoted to crew chief if they have demonstrated strong leadership skills and competence. 

Lindsay Adler, ‘23, hosts training sessions for the explorers and certified EMTs, and teaches them how LUEMS runs. 

Adler is also in charge of all COVID-19 training and matters. 

“Due to the limited amount of PPE, we have and wanting to keep our own members safe, we do not allow explorers to go on calls this semester,” Peterson said. “Lindsay has been doing a lot of heavy training remotely to keep everyone engaged.” 

In addition to their regular responsibilities, members of the organization staff the COVID-19 surveillance testing sites. 

Thomas Perillo, ‘22, is in charge of managing the shifts of members both internally and at the testing sites. Perillo communicates with administration to ensure EMS is present at testing sites. 

“It is very easy to communicate with (the) administration and it is a friendly environment because administration trusts us,” Perillo said.“We have been seeing that (the) administration is giving us really strong words of encouragement.”

Peterson said LUEMS supplies themselves with their own PPE for the testing sites due to the inherent need for it on their regular shifts. 

“We worked at the testing sites all last semester, so we are pretty sure that most of us are or should be comfortable at this point,” Peterson said. “Some people have said they would rather not participate in the testing sites just because of how busy their schedules are.” 

Lewis said Lehigh is relying on EMS to provide staffing for these events due to the amount of tests that need to be done. 

“I think there is a level of comfort that students have interacting with other students who have been through that same experience, probably more so than just random contractors,” Lewis said. 

To join EMS, Adler said there is an online application and interview process. LUEMS members come from a wide variety of majors, even those without a specific interest in joining the medical industry, Lewis said. . 

“It really is a neat cross-section of students on campus that are represented here,” Lewis said. “It is most certainly not the pre-med club,” 

Peterson said it is rewarding to be a part of LUEMS. 

“It is really cool to be someone that your friends and the rest of the Lehigh community can rely on,” Peterson said. “It is super meaningful and impactful to your overall development as a person if you are able to help someone.” 

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