BACK TO SCHOOL
on-campus firefighting boot camp and rappelling off the back of the
football stadium. “I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face the entire
way down.” And using a backboard as a sled following a heavy snow.
“The 9-foot clip-on straps made for good hand holds as we zipped
down the snow-covered hill on the edge of campus.”
EMS became Savett’s link to medicine and an outlet to directly
participate in patient care even though he chose a non-medical
Savett also pointed out that there are challenges with being involved
in EMS as a college student.
“An overnight call the night before a big test can really disrupt
studying—or worse,” he said. “I remember two of us missing a physics
test at Ursinus because we were stuck on an ambulance [non-campus
squad] at an overnight mutual aid fire standby. As we watched the
sun rise over the burning factory, it was clear we wouldn’t be mak-
ing it back to campus before our 8 a.m. test. Thankfully, the profes-
sor was understanding.”
Schaferling said he had similar experiences at Texas A&M Uni-
versity, a university he chose specifically because of the student-run
“I have no doubt that I would have obtained a much higher GPA
had I not spent so many hours down in the squad room or had to
skip classes because of runs,” he said. But he couldn’t stop there. “You
will see terrible, gross, sad, tragic things that most people never see,
much less have to actively manage, things that will haunt you for
years. You will also bring people back to life. You will make some-
one’s day better. You might also be the first one to hold that new-
born. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
Neither would Davis. “At least one night a week for three and a half
years, I was working at Harpurs Ferry,” he said. “Once I was trained
as an ambulance driver, I often covered other shifts or responded
from home to ensure we were able to cover our call volume. Being
involved in college EMS has so many positive attributes, but you
must be willing to put the time in.”
Still, all of them agreed, the benefits outweigh the costs, at least in
the long run. Davis, who first became a hospital chief executive officer
when he was 29, said, “My previous EMS experience has helped me
as my organization acquired and then expanded our EMS agency.”
Payne made similar use of his knowledge, skills and abilities work-
ing in EMS. He said, “As a hiring manager at FEMA, I always look
to see if applicants have firsthand experience in emergency manage-
ment. Those with a background in EMS can relate to the needs of
survivors and understand the urgency and critical nature of the work.
If or when you move to a programmatic or policy position in emergency management, this first-hand experience provides the context
necessary to understand the true impact of your work and decisions.”
When looking back on his time with campus EMS at Clemson,
Savett recognizes that his college experience was a unique one. “
Campus EMS provides so many real-life experiences that can’t easily be
taught in a classroom,” he said while working a Sunday night shift,
“How many 19-year-olds have that sort of experience under their belt?”
Schaferling echoed that sentiment.
“Beyond the skills and knowledge you acquire, you learn patient
skills, bedside manner and basic human interaction,” Schaferling said.
“Many of your interactions won’t require a bandage applied, a shock
delivered or a drug administered. Many require just a sympathetic ear
or helpful advice. You can’t learn those things in a classroom.” JEMS
Bradley Wilson, MPA, PhD, is an associate professor of mass communication and director
of student media at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. He worked for more
than 20 years in EMS, including as an EM T-I in Cary, N. C. He also worked for Syracuse Univer-
sity Ambulance while attending graduate school. Follow him on Twitter @bradley wilson09.
Scott Savett was an EM T-B with Clemson University and is now a senior software
analyst in informatics, and volunteers and serves as the vice chair for the board of
a 9-1-1 ambulance squad outside Philadelphia.
EMS dispatch at Texas A&M University in 1997.