Kristina Forget, a junior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is a guiding force behind the all-volunteer Syracuse University Ambulance service. The EMT works as a field supervisor and monitors SUA training.
A usual day for Kristina Forget '00 can be filled with unusual encounters. But that's to be expected when you sign on as a member of the all-volunteer Syracuse University Ambulance (SUA) service. "I like problem solving," she says, "and working on the ambulance requires you to think on your feet. That's exciting for me. I like to help people, too. Just being there for someone who's in need, or doesn't know what to do, is a big part of the job. It's important to reassure people, to help them relax and feel comfortable."|
Forget, a junior illustration major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, didn't know much about emergency care until she arrived at SU for summer orientation and came across SUA while scouting through the various options for campus clubs and activities. "I'd never done anything like it," says the Schenectady, New York, resident. "I signed up and wound up loving it."
In her first year, Forget completed a CPR course and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class, a two-semester commitment that requires 130 hours of training and passing a test to receive state certification. During that time she also became a trained ambulance attendant and driver.
As a sophomore, Forget shouldered even more responsibility, first as a crew chief and later as both a field supervisor and training supervisor, overseeing designated shifts as the person in charge along with monitoring SUA training. In addition, she was elected president of SUA, acting as its liaison to the Student Government Association and Graduate Student Organization, which help fund SUA. In that position, Forget organized SUA benefits, such as softball and volleyball games, and the annual recognition dinner. Through work-study, Forget is now in her third year as a dispatcher at Health Services, where she's worked as an administrative aide during the past two summers. "It's a great mix of people; everyone is interested in helping and working together as a team," says Forget, who is also a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, a movie buff, a photographer, and an SU sports fan.
According to Robert Audet, manager of emergency medical services at the health center, SUA fields more than 1,000 calls a year. In addition to managing and operating the service, the 50-plus student volunteers must also perform as professionals, sometimes under intense pressure. "The students must provide services on par with those of any other ambulance corps, and they do," Audet says. "We have a group of crackerjack people who have taken the EMT course and training, and learned how to perform consistently well. It's a 100-percent education for the crews-and talk about being under the gun."
Audet describes Forget as "absolutely energetic," initially a shy student who now thrives as a leader. "Kristina is a wonderful example of somebody starting at SUA with no experience whatsoever, progressing through the system, and becoming very accomplished," he says. "She's been promoted all the way up to field supervisorЛthe highest position in the operation for students. Her persistence is incredible. To be such a shy person, I can't imagine how much energy it took her to do what she does now, to walk onto the scene of an emergency and be in charge, talk with a variety of people and get information quickly, make rapid decisions, and direct the actions of others."
Ask Forget about her experiences and she talks about the textbook calls, the importance of sensitivity when dealing with patients, and the occasional dangers, like being accidentally hit in the eye by a patient. "There's a lot of training and learning, but what was most beneficial for me was riding on the ambulance and practicing patient care," she says. "To actually help a patient or see someone in pain or having a psychiatric problem, and knowing how to handle it, is a tremendous learning experience."