Trevor Fisher, Tipton junior, knows from experience the impact that medical first responders can have. A licensed emergency medical technician (EMT), Fisher responded to a situation where a patient was undergoing cardiac arrest.
“Anytime there is a possibility of cardiac arrest or major trauma, stress goes through the roof,” Fisher said. “The patient became stabilized at the hospital. I don’t know the outcome of that patient’s case, but without first responders providing CPR prior to the arrival of the ambulance, it could have been a lot worse.”
Last April, Katie Pickworth, Columbus, Ohio sophomore, proposed the formation of a student organization called Student First Responders to aid in the care of individuals who experience injuries on campus before the arrival of professional medical personnel. With a written constitution and elected officers, the group is in the process of becoming a student organization recognized by Albion College.
“We do have liability issues since there could be lives at stake,” Pickworth said. “We just need to get the legal issues sorted out basically. We need to become an organization before we are able to respond to emergencies.”
“First responders”, a generic term for medically trained first responders to the scene, would be required to have certifications in first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) training. The first responders are not certified first responders, which would require further training.
“Realistically to respond fast enough, basically within two minutes, we will be restricted to emergencies on or around campus,” Pickworth said. “Responders on call could use bikes to respond, because on foot you would arrive at the same time as the Albion ambulance would.”
According to Fisher, who works for Albion Community Ambulance (ACA), there can be a 15 minute delay for an ambulance to arrive.
Campus-wide, there were two cardiac arrests in the past decade and 80 incidents classified as medical emergencies during 09-10. Incidents included allergic reactions, broken bones and other joint related issues, trouble breathing, people passing out, bleeding, and concussions.
“That’s a bit higher than normal, as we average 65-75 each year,” said Ken Snyder, director of campus safety. “Potentially a medical first responder group could be called to any and all of these types of incidents to assist, if we are able to set up a reliable means of communicating with them.”
Pagers have been one source of communication suggested to alert responders to incidents, and Campus Safety would be involved in whatever form of communication is set up, according to Snyder.
“We are still working through all of the liability issues, including whether they would be covered by the Good Samaritan law,” Snyder said. “We and others on campus are figuring out what the issues are, including liability issues, and will help to identify solutions to those issues.”
According to Pickworth, there will be first aid classes available on campus for responders in the fall. Pickworth plans to start funding for EMT certification courses, scholarships and AED’s for the student organization by spring 2012.
While a first responder group has not previously been offered on campus, Jeffrey Carrier, emeritus professor of biology, taught an EMT certification course at Trillium Hospital through the volunteer ambulance service from 1980-1995.
Carrier has helped Pickworth organize information sessions for the medical first responders group.
“We’re planning on having an executive board meeting over the summer to plan for the fall,” Pickworth said. “At this point we know we are going to try for a stand at Briton Bash and plan on meeting about once every two weeks during the fall.”
The courses were available to the Albion community, and before the upgrade to a fully-advanced paramedic service (which required more training), the volunteer service was usually staffed with 30 to 40 percent Albion students, according to Carrier.
For more information on Student First Responders, Pickworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.