Seniors’ experiences in EMT program


Matt Austin

Seniors Annie Madden and Megan Sgroi are EMTs with the Hillsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Madden started riding during her sophomore year, and Sgroi started riding this past August.

Sarah Shapiro and Emily Moy

Senior and Emergency Medical Technician Aishwarya Pathri’s first call was “a lot more chaotic” than what she had practiced during class — especially since the patient was having difficulty breathing. 

“I stood back and watched how the other EMTs on my squad were handling the situation,” Pathri said. “The best you can do in [that] situation is make sure that you’re taking extra care to make the patient feel better, because when you’re practicing class, the person isn’t upset and screaming and really scared, but in real life, that person is really scared.”

For anyone over the age of 16, the EMT program is an opportunity to take a free training class, educate yourself deeper into the medical field, and eventually become a volunteer EMT. 

Pathri said that on any given night when an EMT is on call, the dispatcher first talks to the patient and writes a summary of what is going on, and then notifies the EMTs of the patient and their circumstances through an app. 

“Once everyone’s [at the ambulance building], we take the ambulance and go to the address,” Pathri said. “Before we get [to the address], we think about the call. For example, if it’s a CPR call, we need special equipment for that. After we get there, we start talking to the patient or the people around the patient and try to piece together what happened.”

Senior and EMT Mallory Downs decided to try the program to affirm her career path before she went into her college major of neuroscience and psychology. 

“When I found out about the EMT class, I thought it’d be a really good way to get hands-on experience [in the medical field],” Downs said. “I signed up and then I started taking the classes and I stayed with it because I really liked it.”

Senior and EMT Annie Madden also began taking classes to become an EMT fall of her sophomore year. She found that while working in the EMT program for five months, it became “hard to balance.”

“You’re in two different schools at the same time studying for so many different things, and honestly I didn’t have much of a social life,” Madden said. “I was in school just because I wanted to keep my actual high school grades up, and still pass so I told myself let’s just not have a social life and just focus on [work]. But, after [passing the class], I don’t think it’s very hard to balance.”

Downs said the EMT class is taken in Mahwah or Paramus, two nights a week and over the weekend for three or four hours. 

“It’s a lot of work because you have online work that you need to do out of class,” Downs said. “You need to watch lectures and prepare yourself so when you go into [the] class you have some background knowledge. And within each unit, there is a written test and then there is a practical hands-on [test], like showing you how to do CPR or showing you how to turn on the oxygen, and there is [also] a cumulative final test.”

Pathri started participating in EMT calls a month before the pandemic struck. 

“[I’ve learned to] appreciate what [I] have,” Pathri said. “Usually I’m just sitting at home, listening to music or doing homework, but meanwhile, someone is calling 911, and then I go and see them in pain.”

Prior to the pandemic, Pathri’s experience was “more peaceful,” but she considers the way that they are operating now as a “healthy level of suspicion.”  

“We always have to make sure that our safety is a priority,” Pathri said. “We are even more on top of putting protective equipment like the N95 masks when we go on calls to make sure we don’t get the virus.”

Madden said that an important part of being an EMT is the reminder “that you’re not doing it for yourself.”

“You’re doing [your job] for other people,” Madden said. “And, at the end of the day, when people are calling 911, it’s [probably not their best day]. So, I’m keeping that in mind.”