Emergency medical technicians for GW’s EMeRG program are dedicated and valuable members of the community, yet the resources provided for them by the University do not match their worth. While these students volunteer their time to help fellow Colonials on weekends, it is extremely disconcerting that EMeRG has had to temporarily suspend weeknight operations. The safety of GW students greatly relies on the EMeRG program, and this recent development is an indicator of the program’s need for support from the University.
A number of EMeRG members graduated in May, and while new members are still going through the training process, the program was forced to cut back on weeknight coverage. Though this short-staffing is temporary and EMeRG Coordinator David Fifer told The Hatchet “membership is consistent with the last few years,” the fact that EMeRG will not be on hand for even a few weeknights is troubling. EMeRG is a major factor in student safety across campus, regardless of whether it is a Saturday night during a long weekend or a Monday night during finals. Students do not solely use this resource for alcohol-related emergencies; they also look to it for health emergencies and for free transportation to the GW Hospital.
Though this may be attributed to the fact that so many seniors graduated last year, we wonder why the program has been forced to cut back hours while freshmen train. Students who participate in the program are volunteers. They put in long hours helping others, but still have to pay the expenses of a GW student. A typical GW course load and a commitment to the EMeRG program leave little room for an outside job to help pay for those expenses. True, there is the housing-credit program, which provides compensation for housing for six EMeRG members in exchange for their work on the ambulance. Also, members of EMeRG can receive payment for working on a standby basis at large University events such as Fall Fest. But this is not enough. The EMeRG program deserves more support from the University, and the incentives it provides could attract more students to the program.
One way in which the University could provide support is by offering scholarships to members of the EMeRG unit who demonstrate a commitment to the program. If other groups at GW, such as the GW Spirit Program, offer scholarships, why shouldn’t the students who help other students on a daily basis have the same opportunity?
In addition to a scholarship program, the University could offer a stipend to EMeRG members, or could pay for higher level EMT training here on campus. With multiple levels of EMT training, these classes can be a large expense. Receiving financial support for these classes would be an appealing option to EMeRG volunteers who want to pursue careers as an EMTs. It would also provide the staff with more advanced training and would allow staff members to gain more valuable experience. A staff with a higher level of expertise ensures a higher level of safety for all students. Also, there is always the option of expanding the housing-credit program to give housing compensation to more than the six students who receive it now.
Aside from directly supporting the staff of EMeRG, the University could also provide more equipment and resources for the entire program. GW could help supply the necessary tools staff members use for taking care of students, or could help maintain the EMeRG office and facilities.
There are multiple ways the University can show appreciation and support for EMeRG. Any type of support would help the program attract more students, and this would prevent any future instances of even temporary understaffing.
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