This past Friday, I had my first meeting with the St. Olaf EMT club and discovered some interesting information about the way the club functions as a non-profit organization on campus. After reviewing our mission statement, we got into the nitty-gritty stuff and discussed available equipment and funding. As an in-training EMT (I have my test on Saturday), I constantly have lots of equipment available, from heavy oxygen tanks to various occlusive dressings and medications. As a result, when I peered into the superficially similar bag, I was shocked at the sparse pickings. A lonely pulse-oximeter sat sprawled next to a lonely sphygmomanometer and tiny patient assessment tags were haphazardly strewn about the bag. As I continued my assessment and chatted with the other members, I realized the powerlessness of SOEMT. In training, we are trained as fully-trained EMTs, but in SOEMT, we are demoted to First Responder level. We have no medications, no transportation, and no oxygen until PubSafe shows up. As emergency medical personnel, we are fairly helpless.
For those of you who do not know, SOEMT is a club that provides free EMT-level emergency medical assistance on the St. Olaf campus. Any funding we get from St. Olaf is immediately funneled into uniforms or equipment, but it does not go very far because medical equipment is EXPENSIVE. The majority of the calls we respond to are drunken college students, despite being a “dry campus”. As such, most members are conditioned to expect the expected. Oxygen, airway suctioning, blanket. But what happens when there is a real trauma or medical problem? Although we are trained to respond efficiently, we are not conditioned to expect serious complications. As an individual in emergency medicine, I find that fact concerning. Because, really, what happens when a student gets physically assaulted and gets a serious traumatic wound? With no serious bandages, we cannot fix integral respiratory issues such as flail segments and with little funding, we cannot obtain valuable medical tools to perform efficiently. Although I am very grateful to get the opportunity to work with SOEMT, I do have concerns about our effectiveness. We cannot change the patient population, but we can have the equipment ready to respond to actual issues. On a campus of 3,000 students, we have no triage tags or trauma dressings. So what happens when a college student cracks under the stress and has a shooting spree. As a SOEMT, the best I can do is call for help.