UEMSA to the rescue

In an emergency, every minute counts when trying to save lives. Getting to a patient as quickly as possible is essential for providing the best medical care.

University Emergency Medical Services Association, a USF organization, strives to provide emergency medical care to people on campus as certified first responders (CFRs) while educating its members with training and experience they can use in their future careers.

“Our membership right now is 135 members,” said Aitan Zacharin, chief director of operations for UEMSA. “About 30 of those members are going through the CFR class. An additional 20 have also received CFR training. We also have an additional 15-20 who have had previous training.

“Certified first responder’s role is to assist the EMT (emergency medical technician),” he continued. “They are pretty much certified to do everything the EMT can do, but they’re working under the EMT because the EMT is licensed under the state.”

An issue the group faces with getting the program started at the University is “liability,” Zacharin said. “The University does not understand that if we were plugged into the equation how we would benefit (the campus).

“They see something like this as being a huge liability, because this is a service students are providing to other students,” he said. “We have approached the University with a $3million (umbrella) insurance policy. Allow them to see that yes, we are students, but there are problems with the response time. While we are students, we are certified and trained through the state of Florida.”

Members would not replace Emergency Medical Services but would provide emergency medical care to help stabilize the patient before EMS arrives. UEMSA is working to team up with Tampa Fire and Rescue to be an auxiliary branch on the USF campus.

“We (Tampa Fire and Rescue) have our response regiment laid out, and nothing is going to change with response (to emergency calls on campus),” said Chief Nick LoCicero, rescue division officer with Tampa Fire and Rescue. “They’re (UEMSA) going to be treating the patient at a minimal level.

“A likely response that they may assist us with is a response to a student that had been struck by a vehicle bandaging, splinting a leg or patient assessment, (minimal patient care).”

The organization would start small, with assisting Tampa Fire and Rescue at community events and events on campus, UEMSA’s faculty advisor Stephen Poff said.

“My feeling was that if you’re going to do this, you’re going to do it right,” Poff said. “That’s my position with respect to UEMSA: I want it to be as professional as any other medical service.”

“I’m excited about the potential for this organization,” he said. “I would hold them to the same standard as Tampa Fire and Rescue or Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue. We’ll do this as professionally as we can and make the quality of care on par with the standard of other organizations.”

With the future partnership of Tampa Fire and Rescue, UEMSA will able to receive mentoring from EMT’s who are already familiar with the business.

“We can show them the other side of the 911 call,” LoCicero said. “As far as mentor roles, most physicians that come into the emergency room setting, very few have pre-emergency experience. I’ve got an opportunity to meet several people in the residency program. The majority of them have not been exposed to the ER.”

A board-certified emergency physician, Poff said he practiced emergency medicine for 15 years. He was the medical director of the Baker County EMS for 10 of those years. He came to USF about three years ago and works at Student Health Services now.

Poff’s involvement in UEMSA stems from “a real interest in academics in a pre-hospital setting and in the emergency hospital setting.”

Teaching the certified first responder course is Michael van Hoek, the clinical and education services coordinator for the West Florida division of American Medical Response.

“One of their executive board members is an employee of ours,” van Hoek said. “The fact is that AMR has agreed to underwrite the course to certify it (offering it for free to UEMSA), and I’ve volunteered my time to teach.

“It’s a great group of students that are in this class. They’re taking it very seriously. They really are.”

Future plans for the organization include limited CFR service and continuing to give education to UEMSA members.

“If we get up and running, we want to provide 24-hour-a-day, 3-day-a-week service initially. The worker would work 6-hour shifts and have a VHF (very high frequecncy), the standard radio that any public service provider uses, and respond to the call and go out on the golf cart,” Zacharin said. “As we are getting more people certified (as first responders), we’ll actually be able to provide 24-7 service (on campus). The short term plan for the spring semester is to have the 24-3 service on campus.”

UEMSA would have the chance to improve not only the service on campus, but also the education for those interested.

“The students are getting support from several quarters here at the University. (UEMSA is) a chance for the University to develop a pre-hospital emergency medical training program,” Poff said.

“We have a relatively new emergency medicine residency program through the College of Medicine, (and the) College of Public Health (is) supporting (the development) a pre-hospital emergency medicine program,” he said. “We have the chance for student training, the chance to develop the program at USF.”

Poff said he sees the potential that the program could provide in the first responder program, but it needs to be taken one step at a time.

“(Another) benefit is to be able to provide medical care on campus. We’re not quite there yet, but that’s where we’re headed,” Poff said. “We’re very sensitive to the liability issues. We’re going to take it in stages.”