Student EMT program teaches skills through hands on experiences

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – College is a place to explore known interests and discover hidden passions that may lead to future hobbies or, in some cases, careers.

This holds true for biomedical engineering junior Molly Basilio, who enrolled in the four credit Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training course as a first-year student – a decision made as much for her own enjoyment as for the experience itself.

“I’ve always been drawn to more hands-on fields,” Basilio said. “Those experiences were something I felt I was lacking in my early courses. The EMT course seemed like it would fill that experiential need.”

And experiential it proved to be. Throughout the semester-long course, Basilio engaged in weekly, four-hour labs focused on both theory and practical application of key concepts and skills. At the conclusion of the course, she tested for both her practical and national exams – and passed.

Like all students who pursue employment as EMTs at Penn State, Basilio spent the two following semesters as a volunteer, working under the close supervision of crew members and staff of Penn State Ambulance Service, a 24/7 emergency response service for the Penn State community provided by University Health Service.

Now, nearly two years after enrolling in the course, Basilio logs approximately 35 hours each week as a crew member and logistics/quality improvement safety officer for the company in addition to a full-time credit load at Penn State and applying to medical school.

“That year as a volunteer really is crucial,” Basilio said. “We are trained and tested on more than 100 skills and tasks, learn the ins-and-outs of the company, and still have the hands-on experience of working with patients under the direction of crew members.”

It’s clear that knowledge and retention from the course itself are crucial for success as an emergency responder. Basilio’s experience, however, has shown that there is another invaluable skill: the ability to keep things in perspective.

“Our job requires us to remain calm in situations where it is reasonable not to be calm,” Basilio said. “As a responder, your responsibility is the safety of your patient. Simply put: it’s not your emergency.”

According to Dave Jones, EMS manager for Penn State Ambulance Service, Basilio is one of more than 60 students who work an average of 20 hours each week as paid crew members. These students are responsible, not only for the patients they treat, but also for training volunteers, covering more than 600 athletic and social events on campus annually, including football game weekends and THON, among others. Student crew members also contribute to daily chores and up-keep of the station, supplies and equipment.

“The program gives real-world experience to students, who can also gain prerequisite hours and experience for careers in medicine,” Jones said.

Jones believes the attitude students bring to the job make them ideal employees and emergency responders.

“Students are more accepting of change and usually ask ‘why can't we do this?’ rather than ‘why should we change what has worked in the past?’” Jones said. “They have so much energy and enthusiasm.”  

Students interested in joining the crew should consider enrolling in Kinesiology 403 for the Fall 2017 semester. Individuals already certified as an EMT can apply directly online.

The Penn State University Ambulance Service is a unit of Student Affairs. For more information, visit their website.

Last Updated March 20, 2017