Colby Emergency Response keeps students safe
Hospitalization. You've heard the word. You might see it as the main reason for the new alcohol policy. You may have a few friends or classmates who have had encounters with it. But when a Friday night goes wrong, what really happens?
Colby Emergency Response (CER) is a student run, volunteer rescue squad that serves the College campus. During the school year the members are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. CER is the first response to medical emergencies on campus; the student EMTs assess patients and use their knowledge and experience to determine if medical attention is necessary.
The CER volunteers are trained in a few basic areas to ensure that a student in need of medical attention is kept in a secure and stable condition. If further action is needed, students are transported either to the Garrison-Foster Health Center or to Maine General Thayer Emergency Department.
If there is a situation on campus, alcohol-related or otherwise, CER is the first medical personnel to show up on the scene. "CER is directly called by security; students don't usually make the call," Peter Allfather '11, student head of CER and a Rescue-One EMT, said. In an emergency, concerned students or CAs doing rounds call security, and they contact CER.
The issue that many students face in these dangerous situations is at what point to interfere? Allfather's advice is to "Put whoever it is in a family member's shoes. Is that someone you are worried about?" Dr. Paul Berkner, the College medical director and the faculty advisor for CER, warned that "trying to monitor friends who are ill, in any shape and form, doesn't work. There are people on campus who are better prepared to accommodate to what they need."
Once a student EMT arrives, he or she is responsible for keeping that student safe, whether it means assisting them back to their dorm room or sending them to the hospital. "[The CER volunteer's] role is not to say this person has this diagnosis. Their role is to decide if they need further medical assistance," Berkner said. "CER's job is to decide if they can remain alone, unassisted and unobserved, or if they need someone with a higher level of experience."
If hospitalization is necessary, either security will transport the student or Delta Ambulance is called, depending on the stability of the student's condition.
At the hospital, the patient is brought into the emergency room. Both a nurse and a doctor attend to the patient and decide what needs to be done. The student is either sent home with assistance or stays in the ER with observation.
Dr. Berkner explained that many students link hospitalization with disciplinary action, and contended that this reasoning is dangerous. "CER and security are called because a student's behavior has brought them to their attention. There is some trigger that says, 'this student is ill, for whatever reason-it could be alcohol-related, injury-related or assault-related.' We send people to the ER so they can get a higher level of medical care."
CER is not involved with discipline; their one goal is to keep students out of dangerous situations.
"Any time you have students who are getting so drunk that they require serious medical care, that's an issue regardless of how many times it happens," Allfather said.
It is too soon to know if the new alcohol policy has had a real effect on the drinking culture.
Both Allfather and Dr. Berkner praised Mulepac, a student initiative to change the alcohol culture on the Hill, for their involvement. "It's disheartening to have that high of a number of first-years transported on the first weekend," Dr. Berkner said. "I'm very impressed [with Mulepac]. The signs they posted were a stroke of genius on their part."
Regardless, hospitalization is-and continues to be-a serious issue on the Hill. CER is one way of keeping students safe. "The experience and the amount of care CER provides are exemplary. They have to manage a medical scene, oftentimes with their peers being less than gracious," Berkner said.
Many argue that drinking is a critical part of college life; hospitalization should not be. As a student, peer and friend, numerous resources on campus are available. Safety should always be first and foremost.