Early defibrillation increases the chance of someone surviving cardiac arrest, and the more members in a community know how to respond, the more likely it is to save a life.
With this in mind, Franklin & Marshall Emergency Medical Service team prioritized widespread hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation training for students. Last year alone, they partnered with the American Heart Association to teach 704 students hands-only CPR, raising the total trained across campus to 1,856 students—84 percent of the student body.
Reaching so many students qualified Franklin & Marshall College for a record-setting HEARTSafe certification by the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation—making F&M the smallest college or university in the country to be certified. In fact, the average size of certified institutions is 17,080 students, compared to F&M’s 2,324.
“F&M and the EMS organization have joined an elite group of universities who have trained a significant number of the student body on how to respond to an emergency and perform CPR,” EMS adviser Dennis Mitterer said.
As a team of 15 students licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, F&M EMS is one of the few entirely student-run emergency response organizations in higher education. The students maintain administrative operations with an EMS Board of Directors in addition to providing clinical care. They are available during 12-hour shifts each day of the week and answer calls within two to five minutes, both on and off campus. Every month, they inspect and maintain 47 active automated external defibrillators or AEDs.
F&M senior Nicholas Schwarzkopf, a public health major on the pre-med track from Bennington, Vt., has served as an EMS captain, the highest clinical officer on duty shifts, and the director of EMS operations. Schwarzkopf noted that the HEARTSafe certification required multiple years of planning and was initiated by Daniel Levin ’16, a former captain and the director of EMS operations before he graduated.
Schwarzkopf initially joined EMS as an extracurricular activity but quickly realized that he wanted to commit himself to the program.
“There are so many lessons learned in this work,” he said. “I want to pursue a career in medicine, and as an EMT, I get practical training to apply what I have learned in my classes. I have also been able to develop myself as a leader and public speaker by teaching CPR classes.”
Schwarzkopf envisions applying these skills in medical school and becoming an emergency room physician.
Sophomore Olivia Lavallee, a neuroscience major from Marlboro, N.J., is an EMS captain and director of EMS. She grew up interested in emergency services, earned her EMT certification in high school, and chose to attend F&M because of the student-run EMS program.
Lavallee recognizes that the role of EMS blends student life with critical service to the College and Lancaster communities.
“It’s a unique responsibility to balance student life with emergency response,” she said. “We have a critical job to do, but we really want our peers to understand that we are students, too.”