Student EMTs assist with COVID-19 surveillance testing

by

Student EMT Katie Steenvoorden ’21, watches as Andrew Seketa ’21 gets a sample for testing in the nasal swab testing area of the University's COVID testing facility in the Joyce Center. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Student EMT Katie Steenvoorden ’21, watches as Andrew Seketa ’21 gets a sample for testing in the nasal swab testing area of the University's COVID testing facility in the Joyce Center. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

The COVID-19 Response Unit (CRU) at the University of Notre Dame has hired 11 student EMTs, including several from the Notre Dame Fire Department, to assist with nasal swab surveillance testing at the University Testing Center, allowing for increased staffing at the center and better monitoring of the coronavirus and its spread among students, faculty and staff.

As certified EMTs, the students instruct members of the Notre Dame community in the proper use of nasal swabs, collect the swabs and then complete the required paperwork before sending them to LabCorp for testing.

The students do not assist with diagnostic testing of exposed or symptomatic students, faculty or staff, but do wear protective equipment, including face masks, shields or goggles and latex gloves, as a precaution.

The students are classified as part-time employees and paid as such.

“They’ve been a great addition,” Ami Driscoll, assistant director of medical outreach for NDFD and central testing ops lead with CRU, said of the students. “They’re here to learn, and they’re excited to explain to friends and classmates what all we’re doing to keep students on campus.”

Nasal swab testing area of the University's COVID testing facility in the Joyce Center. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Nasal swab testing area

As employees of NDFD, student EMTs typically assist with athletic and other campus events but have been sidelined for most of the past 12 months because of the pandemic, which has forced the postponement or cancellation of nearly all such events out of concern for public health and safety.

“This is really the first opportunity for student EMTs on campus this year,” Driscoll said.

And a unique one at that, involving professional development but also direct support for an advanced process of testing and quarantining aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and the broader community.

“They get to be a part of something on campus that is bigger than them and that is continually evolving and changing,” Driscoll said. 

She added, “We’re happy to be giving them the opportunity to witness the testing process firsthand while utilizing their skill set. We hope they can carry this experience forward into their professional careers and benefit from having been a part of these unique times.”

Student EMTs typically arrive on campus already certified by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. If they are not also certified in Indiana they must register separately with the state.

Camden Arnold, a sophomore neuroscience and behavior major, and Lucia Chang, a junior biochemistry and theology double major, both premed, took advantage of time off during the pandemic to earn their certifications last summer.

Both started working at the testing center earlier this semester.

“I’ve definitely gained an appreciation for all the workers there having to do the job every single day,” said Chang. “They just invest so much time in keeping everyone safe and healthy.”

Arnold, who worked for an ambulance service in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, over winter break, was surprised by the number of daily tests administered at the center and by the complexity of the overall operation.

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it,” Arnold said. “There’s a ton of tests. There are so many people getting tested each day, it’s kind of crazy. And I didn’t know about that.”

The University has administered more than 118,000 coronavirus tests since January, including more than 116,000 saliva-based and nasal swab surveillance tests. That’s in addition to nearly 100,000 tests during the fall semester.

The University will soon begin vaccinating students in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health.

For more on the University’s response to the pandemic, visit here.nd.edu.

Contact: Erin Blasko, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4127, eblasko@nd.edu