Mass. healthcare students are volunteering as EMTs
Swansea Ambulance Corps interns are working as EMTs to advance their careers in the medical field
By George Austin
The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.
SWANSEA, Mass. — The interns that come to the Swansea Ambulance Corps get education on providing emergency medical care while the Philanthropic Association of Swansea, Inc. gets able-bodied volunteers who help with important work around town.
"The environment here is conducive to learning," said Brendan Martin who is the executive director of the Swansea Ambulance Corps. "These interns are never by themselves. There's an environment of mentorship here."
The interns at the Swansea Ambulance Corps are emergency medical technicians. Martin said there is a pretty expanded scope of services they can provide. Jobs they can do include providing basic life support skills, CPR, bandaging, administering some medications, moving patients from a house to the ambulance, driving the ambulance, putting patients on a cardiac monitor after a paramedic has done an analysis and putting patients on an automated device that does compressions for CPR.
"They do very well," Martin said of the interns. "We rely on them and I think they rely on us."
Martin said a lot of recently certified emergency medical technicians come to the Ambulance Corps to do internships not because they have being an EMT in mind for a career, but want to be doctors, physician's assistants and nurses. He said those types of programs favor candidates who have volunteered in or worked in emergency settings. He said students in medical school or who want to be in medical school have worked at the Ambulance Corps. He said there is one intern who wants to be a doctor who commutes back and forth between New York and Swansea to work at the Ambulance Corps.
Carl Sawejko, who is the president of the board of directors for the Ambulance Corps, said the Swansea Ambulance Corps is attractive to interns because they get to see emergency action. He said the interns learn about teamwork as they work with paramedics, police and firefighters at an emergency scene. He said they also learn how to work under pressure.
"They learn a sense of community service," Sawejko said. "They learn what it's like to work in a 911 ambulance, what it's like to be part of a public organization."
Yvonne Zeng did an internship with the Swansea Ambulance Corps over the summer. Zeng said she liked the atmosphere of the Ambulance Corps. She said she felt very comfortable working with the other people there and asking them questions.
"I learned so much," Zeng said. "I loved the environment. It felt like a family to me."
Zeng was a third rider on 911 calls. She said one of the valuable skills she learned from the internship was how to communicate with patients and how to interact with them.
"In class, they don't really teach you that," Zeng said.
Zeng said she learned that everyone has to work as a team on emergency calls, that it's not just one person who handles the work when they go to calls not knowing what to expect.
"They're really there for you," Zeng said of the Ambulance Corps.
Zeng is a second-year student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences where she is studying to be a physician's assistant. The college requires patient care hours and experiences which is what her internship with the Swansea Ambulance Corps covered. Zeng said she would like to go back to work for the Ambulance Corps during her college breaks.
Sawejko said former Swansea Selectman Kenneth Furtado wanted the Ambulance Corps to be a place where training could be done. Martin said the Ambulance Corps runs two emergency medical technician programs a year. He said the Ambulance Corps also has scholarships available for Swansea residents.
Sawejko said the industry is short-handed. He said more paramedics are needed. Martin said more training is required for emergency workers than years ago.
Sawejko said a philanthropic ambulance service is unheard of in this day and age. But he said many people who work in public safety in Swansea got their start as an EMT at the Ambulance Corps. He said the Swansea Ambulance Corps is probably the most highly regarded ambulance service in the area because of what they do. He said Swansea has always been a town of volunteers. Sawejko said there is no cost to the town for the ambulance service. Sawejko has been involved with the Ambulance Corps since he was 15 years old. There are paramedics that volunteer to work at the Ambulance Corps. An annual fund drive is held. Reimbursements from health insurance and Medicaid also help to fund the ambulance service that is provided. There is a hardship policy if patients can't pay the balance.
The Swansea Ambulance Corps has two primary ambulances staffed at the paramedic level and a non-transport unit which is staffed with a paramedic field supervisor who is in charge of the shift and is there to provide clinician support to the ambulance staff. There is another non-transport unit which is staffed with a paramedic field supervisor who is in charge of a shift and there to provide clinician support to the ambulance staff. If both ambulances are tied up and they are awaiting mutual aid, that ambulance has everything the other ambulances have, except for a stretcher, so that medical care can begin before the mutual aid arrives.
The number of interns the Ambulance Corps has at a time varies. The organization had four interns during the summer, but two of them have gone back to college. One of them is studying for the medical boards.
Martin said non-profit ambulance services are struggling with finding volunteers and have been getting declining reimbursements.
But Martin said interns find the Swansea Ambulance Corps on their own.
The Swansea Ambulance Corps has a paramedic reimbursement program. If someone volunteers for 24 hours a week, the Ambulance Corps will pay their tuition for the paramedic program they are in. Martin said that is another example of training that the Ambulance Corps provides. He said the Ambulance Corps also offers scholarships for paramedic schools.
©2019 The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.