The Collegian
Tuesday, August 11, 2020

On-campus student EMT group UREMS is now paid

A UREMS worker walks through the Forum in uniform.
A UREMS worker walks through the Forum in uniform.

Members of University Emergency Medical Services, the student EMT group at the University of Richmond, will now be paid for their work. 

The students, who previously worked on a volunteer basis, began being paid in February for each call they responded to during 24-hour on-call shifts, and for game-day or event shifts.

UREMS members are first responders to on-campus medical emergencies. A subsidiary of the Richmond Ambulance Authority, UREMS is dispatched by both the University Police Department and RAA, according to its website.

UREMS has been a volunteer group since its founding in 1998, said Lt. John Jacobs, who supervises the group. But in the past few years, a conversation about paying UREMS members arose, Jacobs said.

“The [URPD] chief had said, ‘You know, they're out here as much as all the other groups that work for us or other places on campus, and they're all getting paid,’” Jacobs said about UREMS. 

Rimi Najnin, a junior who joined UREMS last year, said members had wanted to be paid because Public Safety Auxiliaries (PSAs) were paid. PSAs provide non-medical support to URPD, acting as the “'eyes and ears'” of the department, according to the URPD website.

“We kind of thought it was a little unfair,” she said.

UREMS president Suraj Bala, a junior, agreed. 

“Lt. Jacobs is the adviser for both groups,” he said. “In his eyes, it only seemed fair that we were also paid.”  

The PSAs have been paid since the position was founded in 2012, wrote Davan Guyton, a junior who works as a PSA.

Jacobs said it had been simple to figure out the logistics behind paying UREMS members for their game-day and event shifts. 

“When they’re at the event, they have to be at the event,” he said. “They’re paid for the time they’re there. So that part was the easy part.”

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Deciding how to pay the students for the 24-hour on-call shifts took longer.

“When they work shift coverage, they go to class, they go to the dining hall … they can do whatever on campus,” Jacobs said. The students change their routines only if they get a call, he said.

Ultimately, URPD Chief of Police David McCoy suggested paying the students per call received during the 24-hour shifts, Jacobs said. Student Employment agreed that the solution was feasible, and students began being paid this February.

Bala, Jacobs and Najnin all agreed that the pay might incentivize potential members to join UREMS. Bala noted this was important because of a recent decline in membership.

“It’s hard to find coverage sometimes,” Najnin said. She estimated that there were currently seven members on UREMS and said if there were more members everyone could have more days off in between their 24-hour shifts.

Recruiting is currently a big priority for UREMS, Najnin said. 

“We definitely want more people to join,” she said.

Students hoping to join UREMS must have an EMT certification, which can be obtained through a class on campus. UREMS hopefuls must also schedule three ride-alongs with the Richmond Ambulance Authority, Najnin said.

Many other collegiate EMS groups, such as those at Virginia Tech and University of Lynchburg, operate on volunteer bases, according to their websites.

“We are on the forefront of this,” Bala said. “I don’t know of any other collegiate EMS agencies that are paid.”

Although Bala said he had not joined UREMS expecting to be paid, he said he and his colleagues welcomed the change.

“We’re very happy that this is happening,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming, and I think we definitely deserve to be paid.”

Contact head copy editor Caroline Fernandez at caroline.fernandez@richmond.edu.

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