The spring of my sophomore year, I was one of 18 Harvard students enrolled in a fully-subsidized EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) training course facilitated by CrimsonEMS, a student-run organization serving Harvard’s community by staffing a wide variety of events on campus as fully licensed EMTs.
It was a sunny Saturday morning in February as my classmates and I boarded bus 74 and headed to ProEMS, a private ambulance provider in the city of Cambridge, and the location of the EMT training course we would be in for the next 10 weeks. This would be the first of many class sessions over the course of the semester - we had no idea what was in store for us. I had my phone out, despite the frigid cold, desperately trying to finish up the module that was due that morning. In spite of the fact that I did not previously know most of my other class members, soon-to-be friends were helping to explain the concepts to me. This collaborative spirit and community-driven success would be a hallmark of my experience training to be an EMT. I finished up the module on the bus, put my phone away, and properly introduced myself to my classmates.
Currently, there are two fully subsidized EMT courses facilitated by CrimsonEMS. The applications are open in the summer and fall for classes that are held in the fall and spring semesters respectively. The class is open to first-years and sophomores, and around 10 Harvard students are chosen for each class. The students are enrolled in the course simultaneously, with roughly 10 MIT students as well.
Throughout the course, students engage primarily with the material through online modules that have an assigned due date but can be completed by the student at any time that fits their schedule. During the week, there are one to two mandatory virtual lectures, and on most Saturdays, students are required to attend their practical training sessions at ProEMS to translate everything they have learned online to the practical sense. The instructors at ProEMS hold the students accountable for their learning; however, they are also incredibly supportive and willing to work with students who are struggling with the material or who simply need extra practice.
On that very first Saturday at ProEMS, everyone in the class became CPR-certified. At 9 am I found myself learning how to properly provide compressions, administer breathing, and help an individual who is choking. It is truly amazing the breadth of knowledge that we learned in the course; as students, we had to understand the body’s systems, the impacts different diseases have, how to identify the disease and use our tools to properly care for a patient. We learned the proper extrication techniques of an individual who had been in a car accident, how to treat gunshot victims and tourniquet those who are bleeding out. We learned to recognize the different issues that can arise in childbirth and provide the appropriate care until a patient can be transported to the hospital and how to splint one’s extremities in the event of breaks and sprains. A highlight of my experience was the opportunity to go on a ride-along with emergency medical workers at ProEMS. I spent 12 hours in the back of an ambulance truck and witnessed what it was like to treat patients in the community and see how these professionals used what they learned in the course and applied it in their jobs every day. I sincerely loved every second of it!
In order to gauge our understanding of the knowledge that we were acquiring, four midterms were administered throughout the training. At the end of the course, in order to become fully licensed EMTs, students must pass a practical exam. A group of judges, usually current or former EMTs, will come to assess that students have learned the proper techniques to treat patients in a diverse range of circumstances. However, do not fret! The curriculum does a phenomenal job at preparing students for this practical! Students will begin to prepare a few weeks prior and the week before, there is an EMT Boot Camp that is held that reinforces this knowledge. After successfully completing the practical and passing the written exam, which students will take on their own time either in person at a testing center or virtually, you are a fully licensed EMT!
The day of the practical exam was both stressful and exciting. I was incredibly proud of all of our hard work and success! I won’t lie to you and say that it was easy - it required time management, discipline, and dedication throughout the semester in order to balance the course with academic and other responsibilities. However, it was one of the best experiences I had during my time at Harvard because of both the medical training received and because of the incredible people I developed friendships with over the course of the semester. The CrimsonEMS community attracts incredibly compassionate, driven, and welcoming individuals and I am proud to be a part of this community.
If you are interested in learning more about CrimsonEMS or the EMT training course, please visit our website, https://crimsonems.org/.