Day in and day out, many people pass by the College of Charleston ambulance tucked between the St. Philip Street Parking Garage and the BellSouth Building without a glance until its lights and siren signal an emergency. Little does the public realize that CofC students, who serve as emergency response volunteers, man the ambulance.
Since 1995, the College has had its own emergency medical technicians (EMTs) providing medical care and transportation free of charge to students, faculty and staff as well as the surrounding community. The College of Charleston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team is in service throughout the school year from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m.
To join this elite team, volunteers must get certified as an EMT, which means they have to complete a 16-week Emergency Medical Technician Basic (EMT-B) credited course. Through the course, they learn about anatomy, physiology, EMS operations, and patient assessment and treatment. The group is also licensed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control as a Basic Life Support (BLS) transport agency and has an average response time of three minutes.
“These students go through approximately 250 hours of training to receive their EMT-B certification,” explains Megan Golbus, a senior biology major at the College and the student EMS director. “The class is put on through the Lowcountry Regional Emergency Medical Services Council held on our campus in the BellSouth Building.”
The program is helpful for students interested in the medical field who are looking for real-world experience.
“We respond to all calls on CofC’s campus and calls in the surrounding area when requested by Charleston County,” shares Golbus. “Students who choose to get their clinical hours through CofC EMS get an unprecedented amount of autonomy and are able to develop quick decision-making skills.”
Capt. David McDonough, an EMT-B certified fire marshal with CofC, has worked at the College for more than 10 years and has served more than 30 years as a first responder. He has seen much in his time and is beyond proud of the students who come through the program.
“Many of our members after graduation continue in the medical profession, go on to medical school or continue in emergency services,” says McDonough. “But wherever they end up, there are many great experiences that come from being a College of Charleston first responder. I often reflect on these young professionals and say ‘The world is a better place for these young professional adults, and I know the future will be bright with them in it.’”
“I originally joined the EMS program for the opportunities it would give me as a pre-med student,” he says. “It provided both clinical and volunteer hours/experiences as an undergrad student and that is exactly what medical schools look for on your application.”
Golbus and Golder both want to go into the medical field and stay involved in the EMS scene after their time at CofC. Golbus plans to attend medical school to become a pre-hospital emergency physician. Because of joining CofC EMS, however, she has decided to take a gap year to get her EMT paramedic certification and go to paramedic school before medical school. Golder plans to go straight to medical school to become a pediatric emergency physician.
But he’s learned that his time with the College of Charleston EMS team is about more than just gaining experience.
“It has allowed me to meet other students with similar interests and create almost like a second family,” he says.
Alongside his second family, Golder’s eyes have been opened to the world of EMS providers, as he’s gone on calls to help real people with real emergencies.
“As an agency that runs mutual aid for Charleston County EMS, we get to run calls for their agency when they are busy,” he explains. “With this, we are not only exposed to a diverse field of patients, but also providers that come from all walks of life and have different styles of patient care.
“We go beyond the campus and into the real Charleston that most students never get to see,” adds Golder. “We meet lifelong residents, transplants and everything in between. It shows us that our job isn’t just the medicine – sometimes it’s about showing compassion to those who just need someone to talk to.”