EMT program moves to 24-hour operation

Neuroscience senior Alex Collins and psychology freshman Jack Cheng check the contents of a supply bag at the beginning of their shift. Photo by Michael Stout | Mercury Staff.

Starting this semester, the University Emergency Medical Response team will operate on a 24-hour basis on weekdays and will be authorized to carry and administer the drugs Narcan and epinephrine.

UEMR, which provides basic medical support to UTD students through a network of certified volunteers, previously operated between 2:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Yushra Rashid, a neuroscience sophomore and UEMR volunteer, said the change in the hours of operations stemmed from an increase in emergency calls — many of which went unanswered due to the previously limited hours of operations.

Since the change in hours of operations this semester, emergency callouts within the program have increased by 133%.

“I think the change was definitely the right move to make, and we get to see that every day that we are in service,” Rashid said. “We have already responded to over 20 calls in two weeks of being in service with this new change, and our providers have responded to all different types of calls ranging from trauma to respiratory to a whole lot more.”

An additional response vehicle, more advanced medical equipment and sleeping quarters were added to the team’s equipment to accommodate the increase in calls. UEMR has slightly under 30 providers, all of whom are required to complete at least one three-hour shift per week and one overnight shift per month.

“We actually developed sleeping quarters for our providers over the summer to ensure that they would have a place to stay for the overnight shifts,” Rashid said.

In addition to the change in hours of operation beginning Sept. 1, the EMTs within UEMR will be authorized to carry epinephrine and naloxone, more commonly known by the brand name Narcan. Narcan reverses the effects of opioid overdose and ensures victims’ airways remain open to allow for sufficient oxygen intake. Neuroscience junior Scott Bell, who serves as UEMR’s chief, will be overseeing epinephrine and naloxone training for the EMTs.

“Although the opioid crisis isn’t as severe in Texas as in other states, we still think that a college campus probably needs the ability to administer Narcan,” Bell said.

Epinephrine, commonly administered through an EpiPen, is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions caused by insect bites or foods.

“The epinephrine training is also really important because anyone can have an anaphylactic shock, so our team is better equipped to handle them by carrying EpiPens with us,” Rashid said.

Not all EMTs in the UEMR program will be allowed to administer the medications. Within the team, individual rankings based on experience determine whether an EMT can provide the drug. In charges, which are EMTs with more experience, are the only ones allowed to administer Narcan and epinephrine. Those new to the team, called attendants, will not be allowed to administer either medication.

After a suspected overdose, UEMR can offer other services to the patient to ensure their safety. In a scenario where Narcan is administered, UEMR initiates a fire department response so the ambulance can transport the overdosed patient to the hospital. Because UEMR has direct contact with the fire department near campus, response times are much quicker than a general 911 call. Although the response team can offer services to stabilize overdosed patients, it cannot contact the Center for Student Recovery about a patient that has overdosed.

“We cannot give any information to the Student Recovery Center because of patient confidentiality,” Bell said. “But we’d definitely give the patient the information to go and get help and treatment for recovery.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *