Ambulance keeps UIC safe, offers students patient-care experience

UIC Emergency Medical Services

UIC Emergency Medical Services showcases its new ambulance.

The University of Illinois at Chicago now owns and operates an ambulance, staffed by students who are licensed and certified as emergency medical technicians.

UIC Emergency Medical Services is the first university EMT program in Illinois with its own ambulance.

Since late January the ambulance has made more than 40 runs, transporting sick and injured students and neighborhood residents to nearby hospitals while providing the campus with basic life-support capabilities.

The service provides a 24/7 safety net to the UIC community and patient-care experience for UIC students, many of whom are pre-med or pre-nursing majors.

“You can’t get this anywhere else on campus,” says pre-med student Ronak Shah of the hands-on skills gained as an EMT. “You’re giving actual care, and are the first to do so. It not only gives you a skill set, but confidence, whether you want to be a doctor, a nurse, or a paramedic.”

Shah is executive chair of UIC EMS, which he notes is student-run and student-led, even now that it is a unit of the UIC health and safety office. It began in 2011 as a student organization, when Shah and five others hired instructors and established a three-month noncredit course, EMS 200. Each semester, the course prepares up to 40 students to take the national EMT certification exam.

A turning point for UIC EMS came during the planning for the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, Shah said. UIC was tapped to house 1,200 police officers coming from across the country to provide added security, and city officials wanted accessible care for any who were injured. Just days before the summit, UIC EMS received its state license to provide on-site emergency care. A team of 10 EMTs ended up treating 17 officers for minor injuries they received during the two-day event.

Now licensed to transport as well as treat patients, UIC EMS works closely with UIC Police and its dispatchers, says EMT Oliver Boryszewski, a pre-med major who is part of the UIC EMS leadership team. The ambulance is often first on scene, he said, and the EMTs can either provide basic life support until Chicago Fire Department paramedics arrive, or transport noncritical patients to area hospitals themselves.

“Our close relationship with UIC Environmental Health & Safety, UIC Police, and the UI Hospital is quite unusual among collegiate EMS services,” Boryszewski said, noting the support of each was crucial to getting the service licensed and into operation. As university employees, the EMTs are covered for medical malpractice under the university’s general liability insurance and risk management policies.

Future plans include adding staff to provide standby service at the UIC Pavilion and other campus events; acquiring a second ambulance; and offering advanced levels of training, such as paramedic.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

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