Flashing lights and sirens — a normal part of the lives of students like senior Natalya Tropea at Taylor who volunteer at EMTs at Medic 8, Upland's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) unit.
Studying biology with a concentration in pre-medicine, Tropea has been volunteering since December 2021. She is one of six Taylor students who submit their availability to the station each month, committing to being on-call EMTs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Reliant on volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 70, Medic 8 provides students the ability to not only earn patient contacts and clinical hours but also to connect more directly with the local community. They respond to calls throughout all of Grant County.
The life of a volunteer EMT varies, consisting of anywhere between one to ten shifts each month. How often they participate depends on their schedule, Jacob Theurer, chief at Upland’s EMS unit, said.
Generally, six shifts a month is average.
“We always make sure the students know that school comes first,” Theurer said.
As for Taylor EMTs who may schedule an overnight shift with an 8 a.m. class that next morning?
“Chug a redbull and get going,” junior Alan Keysor, a Medic 8 EMT, said.
While the Upland EMS does not currently offer EMT classes, many students who volunteer choose to get their EMT license from their hometown.
Tropea took a three-month class at home over a summer in Ohio. She continued with extra online training in the fall while attending Taylor before earning her Indiana license and beginning her time with Medic 8.
Sophomore Lydia Grier, a biology health science major and Medic 8 EMT, earned her license during her senior year of high school in Kentucky. She started at Medic 8 in October. A psychology and pre-medicine major, Keysor did the same, joining at around the same time as Tropea.
Students can also opt to participate in Leffler Academy’s EMT training program in Gas City to earn their license. The process for certification involves 120 hours of classroom instruction and successfully passing the cognitive exam as well as the psychomotor exam. Afterward, new EMTs spend a few runs with experts at Medic 8 before operating on their own.
Much like Tropea, Grier and Keysor, many students who participate do so to engage in a wide range of hands-on experiences, particularly if they are involved in pre-medicine or health sciences.
“(I’ve learned how to apply) a lot of the things we learned in class,” Tropea said. “I now have the actual ability and the skill and the knowledge behind how to know when to use them.”
Beginning EMTs also learn how to cope with hard situations. Tropea, Grier and Keysor said they have all learned how to handle and process stress and trauma through their EMT experience.
Every shift’s crew consists of three people: a driver, an EMT and a helper. The amount of calls they may receive in a night is unknown.
Each volunteer is provided a pager. When the pager calls, they have four minutes to respond to the station.
“Sometimes people who didn't grow up in a volunteer area don't realize that we (EMTs) are not sleeping at the station like a full-time department is,” Chris Jones, a driver for Medic 8, said. “We're actually sleeping in our house and then driving there (when responding to a call).”
Jones works full-time at Taylor as vice president and chief information officer. Before moving to Indiana, he had been an EMT for 20 years in Massachusetts. He decided to volunteer in Upland this past spring.
Like many of the volunteers when they’re on-call, he has his uniform ready to go, the keys to his car in the pockets.
Pagers alert on duty EMTs who speed off to meet at the station. Green lights in their cars flash to alert others that they are responding to an emergency.
Covered in tally marks, a board in the fire station indicates the number of runs each EMT has done that year. The highest cumulative amount of runs in a career for a Medic 8 EMT is above 3,000 runs — a milestone for one EMT who has volunteered for nearly 40 years.
Volunteers at Medic 8 see the station as a family. They start their monthly meetings with a devotional and a prayer.
“EMS can be kind of a dark place, but I really appreciate (how) a lot of people have connections to Taylor,” Jones said. “The chief and his wife are both EMTs and part of the team, and they're Christians, and they just set a really good (example demonstrating) what our purpose is.”
Unlike her time in Kentucky and his time in Massachusetts, both Grier and Jones said that Medic 8 embraces faith more openly.
EMS across the nation has experienced shortages of people; however, the amount of volunteers that Medic 8 has received has encouraged Theurer.
The more volunteers they have, the more Medic 8 can be in service and expand their availability for emergencies.
Taylor University students interested in volunteering with Medic 8 can contact Jacob Theurer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal vehicles that flash green lights indicate that an EMT is responding to a call — drivers who see it should pull over.
“(Students) spend four years here, and that's a huge part of a person's life,” Theurer said. “They're making friends and connections that they're going to carry with them forever. They should be embedded in that (local) community while they're here as well.”