National EMS Week and the Role of VEMS on Campus

Following a rapid series of events, from Hoops Mania to Hurricane Sandy to the Special Olympics, VEMS and the rest of the Villanova community are prepared to embrace National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Week from November 12 – November 18.

At Villanova, National Collegiate EMS Week is dedicated to clarifying the role played by VEMS on campus, as well as encouraging health and safety measures among students across the university.
So…what is VEMS, and who are the individuals behind the organization?

An independent entity, VEMS is a completely free and student-run ambulance company dedicated to promoting the health of Villanova students and providing medical care in emergency situations. The services of VEMS are free, although any hospital or paramedic bills incurred are the responsibility of the individual student. VEMS volunteers are not Public Safety officers, although they may be called by Public Safety to assist them in emergency situations. VEMS is not involved in the punishments of any students and does not exist to get students in trouble.

Although VEMS is mostly known by students for providing ambulances and medical services, the organization is also highly involved in other health and safety measures, such as the Red Watch Band movement to end alcohol overdose deaths, providing CPR classes for the nursing school and other interested students, and offering students the opportunity to Ride Along in the ambulance in order to learn about how Emergency Medical Services are run. The organization plays a very important and specialized role on campus.

“One of the major misconceptions about VEMS is that we are a ‘lesser’ or ‘mediocre’ company,” Tim Sidley, a VEMS Lieutenant, says. “By that I mean we are often asked, ‘Do you call Radnor Fire Company for ‘real’ emergencies?’ People often believe we are a ‘drunk bus’ to the hospital. In fact, we are a fully capable and operational Ambulance Company and equal in training and standards to any other BLS Squad. We are capable of handling any medical emergency thrown at us. Most of us work as EMTs elsewhere and have countless experience in high volume ambulance companies.”

Greg Lattanzi, Captain of VEMS, agrees. “We are all EMTs in the back,” he said. “We have the same training.”

Although they are professionally trained EMTs, the volunteers at VEMS are all Villanova students who are involved in other activities and organizations. Students can see VEMS volunteers in their classes, the dining halls, or anywhere across campus.
“A lot of students only see us that little bit at orientation, and then hear the sirens,” Lattanzi said. “People think we’re not just students. We also do everything else!”

The students involved in VEMS come from all four colleges in the university, which creates a diverse environment with highly qualified individuals who are interested in helping to promote health and safety across campus.

“Everyone thinks we’re all pre-med or nursing majors,” said Lattanzi, a senior Finance major with a minor in Accounting. “But we all have different perspectives. That’s what makes organizations so great, the diversity of the people.”

Volunteers are involved in training other members, keeping the equipment up to standards, and working with other officers to plan important events such as Hoops Mania, as well as responding to calls for medical attention. Both Lattanzi and Sidley attest to the social aspect of VEMS.

“This was started as a club that was just for fun and volunteering,” said Lattanzi. “No one would do this if they weren’t enjoying it. We have a good time while also helping the university. It’s a double win.”

So how can other students get involved in VEMS, or promote health and safety around Villanova’s campus in other ways?
“I got involved in VEMS because I was already a Fireman when I came to campus,” said Sidley. “I heard about it at the activities fair and figured I would give it a shot.”

Lattanzi also joined VEMS after the activities fair during his freshman year. Students are also welcome to stop by the VEMS office on the ground floor of the Health Services Building with any questions. Whether they are interested in joining VEMS or gaining more skills in health promotion, students are encouraged to take a CPR class and seek higher levels of EMT training through classes held at Villanova. More information about becoming a VEMS volunteer is available at http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/studentlife/health/ems.html or by asking a member of the squad. During National Collegiate EMS Week, be sure to learn more about these great opportunities to promote health and safety on campus, and if interested, check out becoming a member of the VEMS squad.

“It’s a great feeling to help out your fellow peers,” said Lattanzi. “That’s what gives us that good feeling. I’d recommend anyone who wants to get involved to give it a try.”

By Janine Perri ’15

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