EMT program preps pre-health student

Victorien Jakobsen ’19 stands in front of an EMT truck as she reflects on her course and the medicinal skills she learned at St. John’s University that day. / Courtesy of Victorien Jakobsen

[In honor of the first issue since summer break, we want to showcase some of the student body’s summer breaks. Ranging from working as a camp counselor to apprenticing at a tattoo shop, these four varied narratives provide insight into different Vassar students’ interests and summer experiences.]

I spent my summer taking an emergency medical technician course at St. John’s University. It consisted of two and a half months of learning the essentials of how to respond to a medical or trauma-related emergency. While parts of the class were lecture based, others were designed to teach us physical skills, such as how to splint someone’s arm or correctly apply bandages. Whether or not I decide to work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) after the class, I appreciated the opportunity to learn skills that might come in handy.

The thought of taking an EMT course hadn’t occurred to me until I decided to switch my course of study to add pre-health after almost two years of attending Vassar as a declared psychology major. I had discovered that a medical position exists called a physician assistant (PA) and, after doing some research, it seemed like something I could see myself pursuing as a career one day. With a year of prior medical experience under my belt, I could apply to PA school; after just two years of study, I would get to start working at a hospital and personally helping real patients.

When considering the many ways to gather experience in the medical field before further education, the idea of being an EMT sounded the most enticing to me, albeit a little frightening. I didn’t know if I would want to work as an EMT afterwards, but I hoped I would be able to learn more about the primary medical care field either way.

When I found out my course required 24 hours of riding along in an ambulance that responds to 911 calls, I got nervous and began to wonder if I might have made a mistake in signing myself up for the course. I thought maybe I wasn’t cut out for this sort of thing. I’m a shy person and uncomfortable with new experiences, and the thought of responding to an emergency made my stomach do flips.

Despite my hesitations, I stuck with the class and before long, I found myself sitting in the back of an ambulance for the first time in my life. The two certified EMTs on the team were up front, driving us to a car accident on the expressway. I was going over what I needed to do when we arrived—bring the supply bag and AED—over and over in my head as my heart raced. Luckily, the injuries ended up being very minor, and we transported the person to the hospital to receive medical attention.

That day I realized first-hand that learning about being an EMT in class was very different from actually experiencing it. There is nothing like the rush of being in the back of an ambulance driving with lights and sirens and wondering what you are going to find when you arrive. I now have an even greater degree of respect for EMTs and anyone who works in the medical field or spends their time helping other people. I aspire to one day help others in a similar way, and am looking forward to volunteering on Vassar’s EMS team this coming year as well. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to take an EMT course over my summer break. I would highly recommend it to others who are considering a career in medicine, or who think they might be interested in learning these kinds of skills. Even if you doubt your ability to succeed in a high-stress environment, you might surprise yourself.

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