What would entice a busy high school student to volunteer with an ambulance company? Strong recommendations from friends can do the trick. So said Glenn Hartley, a senior at Cazenovia High School, who has been volunteering at Cazenovia Area Ambulance Corp (CAVAC) since junior year as a member of the Student Corp.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started. I thought it was a cool way to get involved in the community,” said Hartley. She has not regretted her decision. She admits she has “learned a ton” — especially skills she believes will be good for her to know next year at college.
Hartley is this year’s Student Corp president in addition to her other activities as senior class president and the girls varsity volleyball team.
The Student Corp brings together about three dozen local youth from several school districts to teach them about the medical field and real-world life situations. Students meet monthly and have to take a CPR course and learn to take blood pressure. They have had learning sessions on various topics like self defense, drugs and dealing with people in tough situations.
Hartley said people find out pretty quickly if they can deal with the sight of blood and broken bones, and it’s better to know that before launching a pre-med academic track.
In addition to the monthly meetings, Student Corp members sign up for at least six hours per month of shift work. Hartley says she usually signs up for three two-hour shifts. If an emergency call comes to CAVAC from Madison County’s 911 dispatch during one of her shifts, Hartley goes on the call and assists the paramedic with the patient. She said she has only been on one “intense” call, but they are all interesting in some way and she feels helpful. She believes her other Corp members feel the same way.
In January, the Student Corp members had a hands-on practicum with four stations where they received hands-on training. Hartley particularly enjoyed this meeting, she said, because teams of students were put into real-life medical scenarios with older people playing the role of patients.
One station taught students how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). An AED is a portable device that checks heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart for people who have irregular heart rhythms brought on by sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). AED equipment can be found in many public spaces and private businesses so training Corp members to use it is great for the community.
During this training, Hartley’s team also had to assess a pretend patient and place leads on his chest as if they were in an actual emergency situation. Other stations had Corp members assessing a “bleeding” patient, working in the back of the ambulance with a paramedic on a live patient with a breathing problem and using a stair chair to move a person down a set of stairs.
Dave Masiclat, a CAVAC paramedic and one of the trainers for the Student Corp, thinks that putting the students into situations where they have to interact with adults they don’t know is good for them. It also makes them “think on their feet” and gives the students practical experience solving problems, he said.
Hartley admits that she likes the intensity of emergency medicine but she does not see herself pursuing a career in the medical field at this time. Her current plan is to study business next year in college. Hartley would recommend becoming a Student Corp volunteer even for those students not interested in a medical career.
“A willingness to get involved is the only thing really needed,” she said. “You get to do real-life things” and “use a lot of social skills.”
She has appreciated the discussions they have during meetings and thinks others would too. But it’s not all serious. “We laugh and joke around all the time, too,” she said. Hartley thinks that volunteering has brought out leadership aspects in her and gives her more confidence going into her new life at college. “It’s definitely something you won’t regret,” she said.
The next opportunity for students to apply to join CAVAC’s Student Corp will be this summer. Interviewing of prospective Student Corp members will begin in July. Students must be at least 15 years old to start and 16 years old to ride in the ambulance with the paramedic.
Visit cavacambulance.org/student for more information about Student Corp.