A Q&A with Washington University’s Emergency Support Team

Jon Wingens | Contributing Writer

On any given Friday or Saturday night, it’s easy to spot Washington University’s student-run, Emergency Support Team (EST) making its way around campus in its trademark Ford Escape labeled “EST” in large white letters. The group is made up of students from all over Wash. U. who are dedicated to the health and safety of their fellow students. Especially on the weekend of WILD, EST is dedicated to safety. Student Life spoke with senior Jennifer Akin, the president of EST, to learn more.

Emergency Support Team member Gaby Gonzalez and her colleague rush to an intoxication call in Liggett Hall to help stabilize the intoxicated student in September 2014. EST began over 30 years ago as the organization Students Helping Out (SHOut).

Emergency Support Team member Gaby Gonzalez and her colleague rush to an intoxication call in Liggett Hall to help stabilize the intoxicated student in September 2014. EST began over 30 years ago as the organization Students Helping Out (SHOut).

SL: It seems that just about everyone on campus knows what EST is and what its basic functions are, but could you elaborate on the origins of the service and how you guys got to where you are today?

EST: So our team is over 30 years old. It started as an organization called Students Helping Out (SHOut) on campus. So going back, we drove around in a golf cart, and multiple different types of cars and again getting licensed as EMTs and all these things developed over many years. A lot of people know us for our navy uniforms and those are actually only three to four years old, so we’ve been increasing our reputation and our abilities throughout the years of our service.

SL: Some students might not understand why we have an on-campus, student-run EMT organization like EST, instead of just using the local paramedics for medical emergencies. Could you explain the logic behind that?

EST: I think that, especially when kids go to college, there’s a lot of uncertainty with their own health care, and while we have a great resource in Student Health Services on campus, we are for any concerns outside the SHS hours and any emergent calls on campus. While obviously we do have great organizations like Clayton paramedics that we do use as resources also, we have a quicker response time for an on campus emergency whether that be, you know, an allergic reaction, a cardiac arrest on campus, stroke, seizure or an unconscious patient. For any of those things, we are quicker responders and are trained to deal with any of those situations before those people [outside paramedics] would get there.

SL: According to your website, EST is always on site three to five minutes after receiving the initial call. Take us through the typical process from receiving a call to treating the patient.

EST: Going back to when someone calls, they’ll call the fistful of fives, which goes to the WUPD [Washington University Police Department] dispatch. Then WUPD will then dispatch people from our team after getting some information from the people who called…So if they have to move the person for some reason we can contact them. Let’s say I’m on duty: I have a pager and radio at all times, as well as keys to our car. So if I get a call, my pager will go off. If I’m in class, I’ll go outside and listen to the page, and it tells me where I need to be. Then, I get on my radio and talk to the two other people on duty with me and say ‘Okay, I’m here. Where are you?’ If we’re all in the same place, we’ll all go to the car and drive together, but if we’re separated I’ll take the car, and everyone else will get there on their own. That’s why we have a really quick response time, because we go straight to the situation at hand.

SL: It’s no secret that EST and WUPD have a strong working relationship. Could you talk about what it’s like working that closely with the campus police?

EST: That’s a relationship we’ve really been developing over the years. They come with us to every call, and they’re a huge resource for us for our own protection—and sometimes having another body on scene can be really helpful. Most of our officers are CIT [crisis intervention] trained, which means they’re trained to deal with emotional calls and a lot of the more experienced officers have a really great working relationship with us on the scene.

SL: What does EST do to maintain the confidentiality of its patients and to what extent are the issues it deals with required to stay confidential?

EST: All of EST’s records are 100 percent medical, HIPPA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], confidentiality sealed and only stay within SHS-certified people.

SL: EST is widely regarded as one of the best student groups on campus in terms of organization, professionalism and membership. What kinds of things do you do to ensure that EST maintains that kind of reputation from year to year?

EST: I think with all student groups it can be difficult due to the high level of turnover in all groups. Just maintaining high levels of standards for our team members in how they present themselves, the training we receive—that’s what gives our team its image. I think everyone internally has a high standard of care because they want people to trust us, so they’ll feel comfortable calling us.

SL: Could you briefly talk me through the process of becoming a member of EST?

EST: Most of our new members are freshmen who do not have their EMT license. That being said, sophomores who do have their EMT license can also apply. Let’s just say starting with someone who has no medical experience whatsoever: They join the team, and in the first semester they join, they get CPR-certified and First Aid-certified. We do internal training on how to work the pagers and radios, we give them their uniforms, we get them HIPPA-certified, they have to do a lesson hour on campus to learn how to properly use the car, and after they’ve done all those things, they can start taking duty just as a CPR certified medic. That being said, they’re required during spring semester to take an EMT class. It’s a three-credit class through Wash. U. It’s a huge time commitment—10-15 hours a week—and they’re required to do 96 hours of clinical hours, which is either working in an ambulance or in an ER. That’s usually 10-12 hour shifts they’re doing on weekends. They come back for their EMT license sophomore year. They have to do a practical test, which is with a fake patient, and then an online test to finally get the license.

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