Tufts Emergency Medical Services is known as TEMS on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus. TEMS works to help provide medical care for Tufts students. It is completely student-run, with oversight and supervision from Captain Mark Roche of Tufts University Police Department and Dr. Stacey Sperling of Tufts University Health Service.
TEMS’ operations, training and finance, among other things, are managed by an elected board of eight directors. Members of TEMS work with TUPD, and the organization is funded by the department, operating under its authority.
Every member of TEMS is EMT-B certified in the state of Massachusetts, which allows them to respond to emergency calls to provide efficient and immediate care to the critically ill and injured and perform basic life support functions. TEMS offers assistance for a wide range of support for students at Tufts, responsible for any emergency on campus including mental health related crises and allergic reactions. There are 37 students currently serving in the organization.
Eric Grin, a senior studying biochemistry, is the current executive director for TEMS. He also has experience with other private EMT services, using his TEMS experience to help his community.
“I really didn't know much about EMS going into college, but I got my license my freshman fall, and I've been working ever since and fell in love with the field pretty quickly,” Grin said.
After joining TEMS his freshman spring, Grin has worked his way up to the role of executive director. In the meantime, he has also worked as a teaching assistant for the Tufts EMT certification course. This academic year, he is balancing courses with TEMS shifts and multiple other jobs, including a position in a research lab, residential assistant and teaching assistant for Biochemistry II. Despite his many responsibilities, Grin finds the time to be a part of TEMS because he finds value in the work.
“There are weeks we’re doing a lot, there are weeks we’re doing a little less,” Grin said. “But you know, if your heart's in the right place, and you really care about something, I think you can always make time for the things that matter.”
Calling the Tufts emergency line (617-627-6911) may be more efficient than calling 911, as the call will go straight to the TEMS and TUPD team based on the ground floor of Dowling Hall. Since it is a Tufts-specific resource located on campus, TEMS is often dispatched more quickly than the local Medford or Somerville police. 911 calls from Tufts would be picked up by Medford or Somerville police, or a remote fire center. It just may be more circuitous because the call goes through the town system before eventually reaching the TEMS dispatch.
“Ultimately people should call whatever is going to be fastest for them if it's a real emergency. We obviously urge people to try and call that Tufts emergency number,” Grin said. “But if for whatever reason, if they are in a massive rush and they just need to do the first thing that comes to mind, they call 911. That's going to get them the same resources and … we’ll be there [regardless].”
Members of TEMS will take on 10-hour day shifts or 14-hour night shifts depending on what works best for their individual schedules. A night shift typically lasts from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 a.m., and a day shift lasts 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
During shifts, TEMS workers are on call wearing their uniform and with a radio. When the radio goes off, they respond to the call as promptly as possible. Most members will typically pick up two or three shifts a week.
According to senior Tufts EMT Matt Karofsky, the number of people covering each shift generally ranges from two to four.
“[The shift workers are] always composed of a more senior member and someone who is a bit newer to the organization and is seeing how it works,” Karofsky said.
Karofsky has been a member of TEMS since the spring semester of his freshman year. He plans to start medical school this upcoming summer, and during his time at Tufts has enjoyed giving back to his community by providing essential care to his peers.
When in physical or emotional need, Tufts students can call TEMS to receive mental and physical health support. While there can be reluctance to call 911, Karofksy has witnessed his classmates support each other when they are the most vulnerable.
“I feel like there can be a stigma, sometimes, [around] calling 911, particularly for things that you don't really see as immediately serious. That can extend to mental health calls, and I think I've been really positively surprised by how willing people are at Tufts to kind of see TEMS as a resource,” Karofsky said. “It's so nice to [see] people watching out for their friends.”
Amelia Gleixner, a junior, joined TEMS her sophomore fall. She is a pre-med student majoring in biomedical engineering, and she values her experience with TEMS as a way to explore and follow her passion for medicine.
TEMS has allowed Gleixner to gain first-hand experience in patient care and administering treatment that she would not receive through other experiences such as a biotechnology office job. She has been exposed to numerous situations that are each unique in their own way.
While many people around campus assume TEMS mainly responds to instances of excess drug and alcohol intake, substance abuse is not the primary reason TEMS gets called on to assist with.
“[Intoxication is] not the majority of what we do; … medical emergencies are number one,” Gleixner said.
Gleixner also elaborated on what happens when TEMS is dispatched in the case of an emergency that might require hospitalization.
“[TEMS tends] to get there faster than the ambulances that just work all of Medford or all of Somerville and beyond. So we can provide the patient care and support if they do end up needing to go to the hospital, give them medication if necessary, and just ensure that the patient is safe and taken care [of],” Gleixner said.
After receiving a call, TEMS almost always arrives on the scene in five minutes or less.
While every call and circumstance is unique, members of TEMS are trained to act professionally and equipped to respond to any emergency situation. Although some students may fear requesting the help of emergency services, calling TEMS is very important for the safety of an individual.
TEMS has an amnesty protocol which protects individuals who call for another person seeking medical attention as a result of an illegal action, such as consuming alcohol or drugs underage. TEMS is committed to this policy and students will not get in legal trouble or face consequences from Tufts for calling TEMS in such situations.
“Every single person working in public safety and on campus would rather that someone just calls if they feel like this could potentially become a real emergency or they feel like they're in danger medically or any kind of thing, than be worried about getting in trouble for something,” Gleixner said.
TEMS is a resource every student at Tufts can utilize if in a dangerous situation. TEMS exists to help students, not regulate them.
“I hope that there isn't any sort of reluctance to call for help if you or your friends need it. … We're always here,” Karofsky said.