UCSB’s student emergency medical technicians are extremely tuned in to their jobs. In fact, Iris Gonzalez sleeps with her Motorola MTS2000 radio by her side.
“If I don’t have my radio, I feel naked,” Gonzalez, a fourt-year art history major said. “While I am sleeping, I can hear the radio click on before anyone says anything.”
Working 24-hour shifts, 365 days a year, 10 student UCSB EMTs currently dedicate themselves to serving the Isla Vista and UCSB communities in emergency situations ranging from bike and motor accidents to alcohol-related injuries – and they’re hiring.
Since the launch of the student EMT program in 1972, UCSB is still the only UC campus to employ and station student EMTs as well as offer a hands-on experience in emergency rescue. Lisa Beedle, student EMT and fourth-year psychology major, said the program has permitted her to explore viable career options in the medical field.
“Most of the [students] that we have here are trying to go into medicine as physician’s assistants, nurses, paramedics or even as doctors,” Beedle said. “This program is a great way to get hands-on experience, especially in the emergency medicine area.”
With many of the current EMTs set to graduate this June, the program is currently accepting applications for the 2008-09 academic year. Students interested in applying for an EMT position are required to have passed the EMT registry test, an ambulance driver license test and have an EMT certificate, which can be obtained locally through enrollment in the EMT accreditation program at Santa Barbara City College and are paid a salary of $8 an hour.
Although the UCSB emergency response team usually operates in a crew of two, comprised of one student EMT and one paramedic, the role of EMTs varies by circumstance. For example, in a non-life-threatening situation, the paramedic will normally drive the ambulance while the EMT takes the patient’s vital signs and performs an initial assessment. However, in a life-threatening situation, the EMT may take the wheel so the paramedic can provide adequate medical attention.
UCSB paramedic Kevin Hightower said the UCSB EMT program has provided students with experience not traditionally available to undergraduates.
“It is a very unique experience to work as a paramedic with student EMTs,” Hightower said. “These student EMTs are coming into a world where they see things that they usually would not see and it is rewarding to watch them throughout this experience.”
UCSB’s emergency response team almost exclusively transports patients to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, although Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is an alternative destination in some extreme trauma cases. The UCSB emergency response team also responds to calls placed for Isla Vista School and Friendship Manor, Isla Vista’s retirement community.
Iris Gonzalez said the job can be quite rewarding. She said one of her most memorable calls was responding to a head on collision by two bicyclists.
“Although the bicycle accident only involved two victims, the injuries were very serious because the majority of people don’t wear helmets while biking,” Gonzalez said. “It was one of those calls where we had to work together with the fire department and what makes a call memorable is when you have to work as a team.”