By: Renata Mukai, Assistant Captain, 2015-2016
Each year, at the end of February, VCEMS members are given the chance to attend the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation’s annual conference. Instead of spending a weekend on campus, ten lucky students get to pile into cars and make the drive to a city in the Northeast, spend a couple of free nights in a hotel bed (usually with complimentary breakfast), wear EMS blue, and join the hundreds of other campus EMS providers in attending conference events designed to increase further knowledge of emergency-related information. The conference presents a unique opportunity to network with collegiate EMS organizations from near and far, allowing VCEMS to learn about how other campus teams work and what they do differently. It also allows campus EMS members to be targeted by schools, companies, and gadget designers (in case you’re in the market for an automated CPR compression machine). The convergence of so many EMS organizations at one hotel leads to the expected gear jealousy (who knew an on-the-sleeve pen loop could look so cool) and exchange of ideas (can we get an ambulance?). Most importantly, though, this national event is a place for campus EMS providers to learn.
For especially motivated participants, a crack-of-dawn wakeup time on the first morning of the conference is rewarded with the chance to take part in practical skills labs. These are typically more hands-on trainings, with small signup limits and focuses on developing skills that range from mass-casualty incident drills to tutorials on field usage of a portable ultrasound machine. Spots in these classes are tough to obtain and wait lists for more flashy sessions can be lengthy. Still, the members of VCEMS who managed to get into one of these skills labs generally gave them positive reviews — and the knowledge they gained could plausibly be passed along to the rest of our agency.
Even without the chance to take part in a skills lab, the conference offers plenty of other educational options through classroom- or lecture-style presentations. These can be given by other EMTs, paramedics, nurses, nurse practitioners or physician assistants, or doctors. Plenty of the M.D.s and D.O.s who give talks started out as first responders, and some have even maintained their certifications. The tone of many of the 2016 conference’s presentations, especially those focused on traumas, was ominous though informative due to the no longer uncommon occurrence of campus shootings. Lectures on triage protocols, bleeding management, et cetera pitched preparation for worst-case scenarios through the emergency philosophy of “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail” — a phrase repeated by surgeons and state troopers alike during their presentations. Emphasis on collaboration between campus EMS and other agencies, like local police, fire houses, and campus security, was also ubiquitous in these seminars. The subject matter of conference lectures includes a wide range of other topics as well: emergency animal care, YouTube-inspired trauma treatment, advice for special needs patient care, and lessons on pharmaceuticals represent only a small handful of the diverse focuses for hour-long sessions. When chairs ran out last year, some popular lectures were even attended by small crowds standing behind intentional seating. Movement in and out of lectures was somewhat permissible, and allowed for the discovery of common interests with fellow VCEMS members. Participants at the conference can attend any of these sessions, and as many as they wish to, during what is typically a two-night stay. The trip back to Vassar is typically the final Sunday afternoon of the conference, giving the ten members what is hopefully enough time to catch up on homework before classes resume the following Monday.
The next NCEMSF Conference will be held in Baltimore, Maryland from February 24th, 2017 to February 26th, 2017. Participation includes a weekend away from Vassar, some free swag, the chance to meet other EMTs, and the opportunity to broaden your understanding of emergency care, making you an even more knowledgeable member of VCEMS.