The world of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is one that is unknown to many yet remains one of the most crucial and integral services provided. In the state of Connecticut, EMS is divided into four certifications: Emergency Medical Responders (EMR), Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMT), and Paramedics. Each job has a different set of responsibilities in ensuring the safety and improvement of the health of patients, and a certain list of requirements that one must complete in order to become one.
While most at KO can agree that they struggle with an extremely busy schedule, seniors Spencer Schaller, Ethan Pinkes, Aiden Borruso, and Marwynn Somridhivej all decided to put more on their plates by completing such requirements and becoming registered EMTs. Each of the four became interested in EMS at different times and in different ways, but each had the common goal of giving back to their community and gaining experience in the medical field while doing so.
For Spencer, his interest stemmed from his earlier experiences with first aid through Boy Scouts, as he officially became an Eagle Scout the fall of his freshman year. “I decided to take an EMT course after one of my instructors at a NOLS first aid course suggested that I do,” he explained. “My course was three days a week from 8 to 5 and it included [ambulance rides] during the days we did not have class.”
In his class, Spencer said they had lectures from their textbook in the morning and spent the afternoon actually practicing. “We had time to work on the skills first hand and run scenarios to prepare us for the State Practical exam. We also had quizzes and tests for ‘homework’ to test our knowledge and prepare us for the NREMT, an adaptive test that you must take to get your license,” he said.
Aiden said he took the same course in South Windsor, except he went every Sunday for twelve weeks instead of three times a week. “We had online work that we had to do throughout the whole week and would be tested or quizzed on that Sunday,” he said. “It was a lot of work, but I had enough time because I started the EMT program the beginning of this past summer and ended the week before school started. I have been certified since the beginning of October.”
Also taking his course during the summer months, Marwynn said it only took him four weeks as he went every weekday for nine hours, equivalent to a real workday. “We covered anatomy, physiology, all the technical stuff really,” he said. He explained that while becoming an EMT certainly is not easy, it is not at all unmanageable, either.
“You need to have a sense of time management and dedication to what you’re doing, and then it becomes easier to learn and accomplish what you want to,” Marwynn said. Spencer agreed and said he would recommend that those with any interest at all in medicine become an EMT, as the benefits are extraordinary. He warned of CT’s minimum age requirement of 16 to take the course and 18 to work for pay as an EMT, though.
Therefore, since Spencer is the only one of the four who is 18, he is the only one who currently works. Right now, he is an A2 for the Simsbury Volunteer Ambulance Association, which is a probationary member. “We work in the back of the ambulance alongside the normal staff to work on our skills and learn. The process takes about 4 to 6 months to get cleared and become a full A (attendant), meaning I can then work in the back alone,” he said. “I am also a probationary member at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department, where I will be an EMT and exterior firefighter.”
Ethan, who actually became an EMR at the age of 14 years old before taking the EMT course at 16, said he really appreciated his experiences with EMS but believes he is actually meant for a different career.
“Volunteering as an EMT made me realize that it’s not what I want to do with my life,” he said. He said in his time as both an EMR and volunteer EMT, he saw many of the same patients come back for the same types of treatment, and it inspired him to learn more about the way the medical system works and how to fix such problems. “Taking care of those patients was simply a band-aid solution, and I knew I wanted to get at the real root of the problem. I want to address current policy issues and that is why I plan on majoring in political science,” Ethan said.
Meanwhile, both Aiden and Marwynn said their experiences affirmed their love for the medical field and helped them decide to pursue these interests in college.
“I one hundred percent want to study neurobiology,” Aiden said firmly. “I have known since freshman year when I became a volunteer at Hartford Hospital and helped medical students complete their training by allowing them to complete simple simulations and experiments on me.”
On the other hand, Marwynn said he plans on becoming a pediatrician but is still open to other disciplines, as well. “Personally I don’t want to limit myself so I have been trying to expose myself to the medical field as much as possible,” he said. For example, besides taking the EMT course and speaking with the EMTs he has worked with, Marwynn said he has also had the opportunity to shadow many doctors in the Emergency Rooms in Thailand due to their lax laws.
All four boys agreed that the services EMTs and all emergency responders provide are extremely important yet they are extremely underappreciated, as well. “For the people that do it as their job, they deserve an incredible amount of respect because of the stress they have to go through, and they’re incredibly underpaid,” Ethan said. Spencer said he agreed and thought that while becoming an EMT was definitely life changing, it could also potentially have a negative impact. “One of the unfortunate things for first responders, doctors, and many other workers, is the exposure to traumatic scenes and events, which is inevitable. And many develop PTSD or some form of anxiety or stress from it,” he said.
Marwynn elaborated, saying that EMS providers often put their own lives on the line, just as a police officer would, but are not recognized for that. “It’s not easy or particularly rewarding and people don’t appreciate it as much as they should, so stopping to thank them and making sure they don’t go unnoticed goes a long way,” he said solemnly. “I have a lot of respect for them, and I think everyone should. Just be grateful for their service.”
Although they all still have a long way to go and experience to gain in their professional journeys, be sure to stop and ask Spencer, Ethan, Aiden, and Marwynn about their own experiences with EMS and learn more about this little known field of work.