12-hour shifts. Psyche patients. Suicides. COPD. Saving lives. Behind the scenes of every emergency situation is an EMT crew. These Emergency Medical Technicians or ambulance technician crew consists of one EMT and paramedic alongside two to three certified volunteer trainees, usually high school students. These life saviors are the ones aiding us in our everyday crises, even those deciding life and death. The night of October 18, 2014 in the Central Bucks South parking lot after a football game with Pennridge High School, South student Sean Horan was at the scene to treat the emergency situation of Charles Hollenbach—former Pennridge High School football coach—after his sudden car accident. Horan, a certified EMT, brought to us the story of his inspiration, merit, and aspirations of becoming an EMT.
Sean Horan, now a senior at South, had always shown keen abilities in the science and math fields. This opened the medical domain as a possible career choice, hence why he participates in the CB South HOSA club. HOSA is a club designed to expose students to the diverse career paths in health care with first-hand accounts from technicians, doctors, and professionals.
This interest surfaced in his decision when two summers ago, Horan was searching for volunteering opportunities in the community. Instead of pursuing typical high school summer jobs such as lifeguarding or working at fast food restaurants, Horan decided to join the Warrington Community Ambulance. The profession seemed great for his desire “to give back to the community and also to test out the medical field because it had always been interesting.” He has since stayed with the organization, as the experience serves as a “stepping stone to ultimately reach” his ambitions.
Horan, already familiar with the EMS (Emergency Medical Services), was able to provide background knowledge on its functions and the role an EMT has to play in it. The EMS responds to medical emergency 911 calls and tends to any emergency given whether it is “broken bones, cuts, or cardiac arrests.” As an EMT, his main job is to aid other paramedics and EMS crews on the truck by running supplies in car accidents, back boarding, performing CPR, and utilizing stair chairs. These EMS crews serve as the bridges between the community residents and the hospitals, for they sustain the patients’ lives while transporting them to hospitals where they receive permanent treatment.
After building experience as he watched professionals, Horan took the next step to earn an EMT certification through the state health department. He attended class “four days a week, nine hours through nine weeks” learning from a textbook and lectures. Assessments consisted of computer adapted MCAT-like tests for determining practical skills and demo type assessments for demonstrating appliance of physical skills such as, “bandaging, splinting, CPR, breathing, ventilation, back boarding.” He also stated that those wanting to go further than EMTs could take yearlong paramedic classes to learn how to treat with “different drugs, IVs, heart monitor, and heart rhythms.”
Because the organization’s objective is “to save lives,” Sean said that he felt fulfilling merit in every shift he served. He enjoyed that the opportunity allowed him to learn about medicine and the emergency system in his area along with the communication skills to calm patients and alert fellow EMTs. Although the “every day is different: you could have a two hour shift with 10 calls or no calls,” Sean said it was just like the real medical world in which consistency is a privilege, not a guarantee. In addition, the field strengthened his ability to cooperate with others since “teamwork is key when you’re trying to manage a scene or a patient.” Despite his busy schedule of schoolwork, sports, and other extracurricular activities, these satisfactions kept him pursuing the job.
Among his most memorable experiences were life-threatening instances named “good calls” such as “cardiac, heart attacks, chest pain, diabetic hypo or hyper glycemic anxiety attacks, respiratory stress, asthma attacks, and COPD.” He recalled in detail the first time he performed CPR which took place at Villa Barolo Ristorante & Wine Bar, a restaurant on the corner of 611, when a man lost his pulse on the floor and [Sean] did CPR on the way back to the hospital.” Horan recounted it as the most memorable experience because he “actually did something directly” rather than supporting the patient until arrival at the hospital.
Nevertheless, with achievements were also failures; he continuously faced deceased patients due to failure of CPR or instances when the crew was too late to resuscitate the patient. Furthermore, responsibilities “bound by laws as well as ethics of the organization” were inevitably emphasized in the life saving processes—an attribute that may render the profession difficult to get used to when approached the first time. Evidently, the job is as much responsibility as it is a worthwhile experience, which Horan appreciates throughout his experience.
Because he cherishes the position so much, Horan strongly recommends that students interested in the medical domain join a local EMT organization to contribute to the community. He reiterated Ride-Along programs in which one can sign up for an orientation shift before committing permanently. As long as one has a CPR certification, one can become a member of the organization. With further certification, one can become an official trainee like Horan. The experience, although arduous at moments, will prove to be a life-changing experience and a life-saving one too.