By Olivia Bowman
From the outside, “Bessy” may look like any other golf cart driving around campus. But she is far from the average vehicle.
Bessy gets her nickname from the TCNJ EMS team of EMTs that drive her to emergency calls on campus. The vehicle is packed with any medical supplies an EMT may need in an emergency situation — and these days, she is carrying more masks and gloves than ever before.
Although the vehicle cannot transport patients, Bessy and TCNJ EMS are usually the first on the scene of a campus emergency.
Previously responding out of Decker Hall, the team of over 30 EMTs on the squad now respond out of their own Townhouse, where Bessy can be seen parked close by during shifts. The change in location was due to Covid-19. Now, each individual EMT on shift can have their own room — a plan designed to comply with social distancing procedures.
TCNJ EMTs are full-time undergraduate students who run overnight shifts once every two weeks from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.. They are also responsible for covering weekend shifts. Every EMT in the Townhouse gets their own room and sleeping amenities to make it through the long nights.
Jessica Brynildsen is a sophomore nursing major at the College and a full time EMT and lieutenant at Lambertville New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad. She joined TCNJ EMS briefly during her freshman year.
“My impression of [their] work is that the EMTs dedicate a lot of time to do shifts on top of being full time students,” she said.
TCNJ EMS President and senior criminology major Joe Martorano said that with Covid-19 protocols in place, there have been many added procedures in place to keep the squad and patients safe.
Martorano has been an EMT for about two years, and works in an Urgent Care clinic screening Covid patients as well, so he is no stranger to the protocols.
“Now, [TCNJ EMS’] procedures are a lot more strict,” Martorano said. “We have to decontaminate everything regardless of what time of night it is, and we can’t go back into service until after all of that decontamination is done.”
Martorano said that emergency calls have decreased since less students are physically on campus.
With fewer campus parties, he said that there have been a lot less calls for assessments relating to intoxicated students. Students are calling to be assessed for Covid symptoms instead.
“We are, not surprisingly, receiving more Covid related calls with respiratory issues and the likes of that,” Martorano said. “More or less the students are just concerned about what is going on [with their symptoms].”
Martorano said that students are just as resistant to going to the hospital as ever, but more students are looking to get checked out by an EMT before making any other decisions.
“It is almost like a wellness check,” he said.
Bessy, the emergency vehicle, cannot transport patients because of the small size of the vehicle and so if an ambulance is deemed necessary, Ewing Township EMS is called.
“Our crew chief is in charge of our radio contact with Mercer County,” Martorano said. “[Ewing EMS] will transport them to the hospital.”
This is not meant to say that every student who calls TCNJ EMS must go to the hospital. On TCNJ EMS’s website, it states that it is normal to be hesitant about going to the hospital, but it should not deter students from calling them.
“If you are ill or injured, we are here to help you. Your situation will be handled with utmost medical professionalism,” the website states.
Jess Brynildsen also spoke about the difference between College and 911 EMS.
“I joined for a short time but had to resign due to work commitments,” Brynildsen said. “I think fun parts [of College EMS] would be doing EMS for the sports games, concerts, convocation, and other events.”
Martorano said that the squad has become a close knit family, and both participation in school events but also responding to serious calls together brings people closer than it would in another setting.
“When I joined I knew absolutely nobody and I was probably the most awkward kid on the squad,” Martorano said. “They assigned me to my Tuesday shift and I really found my crew with the three individuals that I worked with… and two years later, here I am as President.”
And as always, Bessy can be seen sitting patiently in front of the Townhouses, ready to respond at any time.
If you have a medical emergency, call either 609-771-2345 from a cellular phone or 9-1-1 from a campus phone.