CARS (Charlottesville-Abermarle Rescue Squad) is a volunteer rescue squad that serves Charlottesville city, Albemarle county, and the UVa community. It was founded in 1960 and currently operates a fleet of eight advanced life ambulances, quick response zone cars, two heavy rescue trucks, a water rescue truck, and more. Our team consists of EMTs, paramedics, squad truck operators, and fire medics as we respond to a relatively high volume of 911 calls in the area.
2. How did you learn about CARS?
I first heard about CARS through a friend who had been a member at the agency. She advised me to sign up for the two-semester long class offered through UVa (NUIP 4004 Strategies for Prehospital Emergency Care).
3. What made you decide to engage in this clinical opportunity?
CARS has a Ride Along Program where anyone interested can shadow an EMT during a shift. I participated in this and loved the experience! Everyone was extremely friendly and took the time to teach me all about the ambulances. I especially enjoyed observing how much teamwork and collaboration goes into responding to 911 calls.
4. How did you learn about the position?
After taking the EMT class through UVa, a representative from CARS spoke to our class about becoming a member. I filled out an application, sent in the required three letters of reference, and within a month was invited to an orientation.
5. What did your two-year experience in this position consist of? Can you describe a typical day?
The two-year experience requires that you volunteer one shift a week for two years. Most UVa students choose to work night shifts from 5:30 pm to 6:30 am. During a typical shift we first check the ambulances and make sure they are clean and ready to run and then our Crew Captain assigns us to an ambulance for that shift. When we are not responding to calls, we get to cook dinner together, complete training scenarios, sleep in the bunkroom, and have some down time for homework.
6. What distinguished this opportunity from other options you might have pursued?
I wanted an opportunity to practice direct patient care, work as a team, and learn about the Charlottesville community. I believe that being an EMT is different because on most calls, I have to make some critical decisions alone or with another person with equal experience. I have to know my protocols and be able to carry out life-saving interventions without the supervision of a doctor. We also respond to an overwhelming variety of locations: I’ve been to farms, apartment buildings, nursing homes, hiking trails, the Corner at UVa, residences, dorms, and many more. This provides an opportunity to be resourceful and explore Charlottesville outside of the UVa community.
7. Why do you recommend this opportunity for other UVa students?
For anyone looking to pursue a career in healthcare or first response agencies, I think volunteering as an EMT presents the opportunity to cultivate and apply teamwork, resourcefulness, composure, and bedside manner. It has become the defining part of my undergrad experience and I would not be the person I am today without CARS.
8. How did this experience help to prepare you for your next step?
I will be attending PA school in the fall and believe CARS has provided me with the recommended hours of patient care as an EMT. I am now more familiar with emergency medicine and how the emergency room operates. I understand that most medical schools, PA programs, and PT programs find experience as an EMT very valuable.
9. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Though it is a big commitment to volunteer with CARS, I have been rewarded with great connections, experiences, and friendships that have made my experience at UVa so unique. If you have any questions or interest in joining/shadowing us please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or access the CARS website at carsrescue.org.
10. What other opportunities does CARS have to offer?CARS offers many classes for first responders such as an ambulance driving certification, vehicle extrication courses, CPR classes, and Hazmat awareness. We also participate in Standby events where we will take a staffed ambulance to CHS/STAB football games, Trick-or-treating on the Lawn, local festivals/races, graduation, the Foxfield Spring Races, and many more.