Vaccinated MacEMS EMTs take on new roles during COVID


Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Lucy Diaz, Staff Writer

MacEMS, Macalester’s student-run emergency medical service, has successfully vaccinated all of their Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). Some MacEMS EMTs have been eligible to get vaccinated since the first vaccine rollout in late 2020 through off-campus jobs in the Macalester-Groveland community. MacEMS has worked with the Laurie Hamre Center for Health and Wellness to get the remainder of their team shots through the Ramsey County Health Department. This has provided MacEMS members with a much needed sense of security while working in healthcare during the pandemic. 

“It’s nice to know that I’m not going to get my parents sick,” MacEMS CPR Course Coordinator Henry Elsenpeter ’22 said. “Knowing that I’m able to prevent community spread has probably been the nicest part of having the vaccine.” 

“It’s a relief, and good for some peace of mind,” MacEMS Co-President Hannah Gilbert ’21 agreed. 

However, not much about being an EMT at Macalester has changed since the entire team has been vaccinated. 

“We’re just carrying on with masking and distancing and all of the same things we were doing before,” Gilbert said. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the duties of the  EMTs have shifted and evolved as EMTs took on new roles and responsibilities. Previously, EMTs were on call in the campus center each week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as running CPR courses and other educational seminars throughout the school year. They have now taken on additional tasks to help keep the Macalester community safe.

“Our call volume fell a lot with COVID, we don’t get too many calls anymore,” MacEMS Operations Director Grace Doyle ’22 said. “It’s probably good, because that means that our community is being safe.”

The EMTs are now heavily involved in the on-campus COVID-19 testings, because a person with a medical certificate is required to watch the swabbing process. 

In addition to this major change, MacEMS implemented scramble crews, which allow MacEMS to extend their hours beyond the previous 9 p.m.-2 a.m. from Thursday-Saturday. Scramble crews run from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. every day, where a MacEMS member monitors public safety calls via radio. Other team members are alerted if there is a medical call or emergency that would warrant a medical response, allowing MacEMS to “scramble” a team together based on who is nearby and can respond. 

“It’s been working. We’ve responded to one or two calls this semester so far,” Elsenpeter said. 

The EMTs have also seen other changes in their routine shifts, with the implementation of additional COVID based social distancing protocols. This includes shift changes that ensure that EMTs are not spending large amounts of time in close proximity to each other, as well as a double masking requirement with personally fitted N95s.

“We worked really hard to develop protocols to keep our EMTs safe, and I have a lot of confidence in those protocols,” Gilbert said. “ We worked with our medical director, public safety and the staff at the Hamre Center to come up with this set of protocols.”

The preparation process to respond to a medical emergency is now much more extensive as well, particularly when it comes to personal protective equipment, which is supplied to MacEMS by the Hamre Center. Double masking and face shields are now required for the EMTs when on shift, and each member of MacEMS has a PPE bag that they bring with them on calls. 

“We’ve been provided a lot of support from Health & Wellness,” Doyle said. “We have adequate PPE, ample masks and N95s, and when we do COVID testing, we have the shield up between us and the person, so there’s a lot of safety in that.” 

Even with the vaccinations adding an extra layer of protection for the EMTs, these protocols will remain in place until a majority of the rest of the Macalester community is able to get vaccinated as well, a goal which the college gets closer to each day. As of this article’s publishing, 334 community members have gotten vaccinated, including 199 students and 135 employees according to Macalester’s COVID-19 dashboard.

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