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Paying to serve: JCU EMS voices concerns to university leadership

April 10th, 2014

The alarm clock blares in a piercing cry, the clock face displaying the time “2 a.m.” in bold, red characters. Although you take pride in waking up to help others, you can’t help but think of the challenges you’ll face in the ensuing hour. Due to lack of funding, the number of first responders on JCU-EMS staff has plummeted, making it increasingly necessary for you do the work of many. Although your training is equal to that of an ambulance worker, you feel undervalued in the work that you do, making you question whether or not to drop the volunteer work that both exhausts you and gives you purpose. As a member of JCU-EMS, these worries and more are becoming a growing problem.

On Tuesday, April 1, JCU EMS Chief Megan Boyk voiced her concerns with the lack of support her organization receives from administration and the deficient communication that transpires between JCU-EMS and Residence Life.  The most prevalent and overarching problem that JCU EMS faces is the limited funding that they receive contrasted to the price of running a productive service to the JCU community.

To become a member of JCU EMS, new members pay up to $1,000 for training, the maximum amount of reimbursement that is provided by the school being fifty percent. Although those that join JCU EMS are volunteers, the possibility of paying up to $500 dollars is a deterrent for students that need a paid job to pay for their college education. Due to the fact that JCU EMS is not given the funding to reimburse the training fee for new members, many first-responders are forced to leave the department to take paid jobs. With this decrease in staff members, the workload of the remaining members has been amplified.

“I think that anyone who wants a job like this should not lose money by participating, At this point, we don’t have the funding to support that policy, and that’s one area the administration could help us with. Being able to fully refund our responders would help us recruit more new members and retain those already in the department,” said Boyk.

Boyk said that is JCU adopted a policy of full reimbursement for the training fee of JCU EMS, the retention rate would be much higher. Boyk also suggested that having more members would make it more possible for JCU EMS to have a full shift schedule of 5 p.m.- 9 a.m. to guarantee that the most severe of calls are handled, as they should.  As of now, there are only 8 active department members, a shockingly slim number of students responsible for the well-being of an entire campus. “It’s a vicious cycle- the smaller our numbers are, the more people quit taking shifts,” said Boyk.

Another issue that Boyk addressed was the nonexistent participation of the JCU administration in the JCU EMS’ fall mass casualty training. In these programs, JCU-EMS simulates how to respond in case of a real disaster. Although the John Carroll administration was encouraged to attend the training, none have attended the training so far.

“I’d love to see the administration be more involved in the process. It is important that our university leadership understands how our disaster response works,” said Boyk, “We can never predict if or when a mass casualty disaster might happen, but the best way to handle a critical incident is preparation, and it’s important that our school’s leadership is involved in that process.”

The second most prevalent issue that JCU-EMS has faced is a lack of awareness on the part of the student population on how to properly utilize the services that JCU-EMS provides. Because students often do not have the opportunity to come in contact with JCU EMS until it is too late, students at large are unaware of the services that JCU-EMS provides.  According to Boyk and members of EMS, the easiest way to alleviate this problem is to work directly with Resident Assistants.

“We used to do practice calls together during RA training in order to teach everyone to support each other on real calls and clarify the roles of the personnel on  scene. For some reason, this isn’t happening anymore. Every single student on John Carroll’s campus should know what to do and who to call if they’re in an emergency situation, and that simply is not the case right now,” said Boyk. Aside from RA emergency training, Boyk suggests that informational programs on residence floors would be beneficial in increasing the awareness of the student body.

Despite struggles that EMS faces, the passion that those involved feel for the work that they do is unwavering. “My colleagues are truly men and women for others, and it’s inspiring to work with them every week,” Boyk said.

Ultimately, the most important focus on JCU EMS areas of concern is making sure that the people they serve, the student body, is aware of how to use EMS services. If you or someone you know is injured, severely sick or might need hospitalization, call JCU EMS at (216)-397-1234.