The Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS) restarted full-time emergency medical services for members of the Georgetown community Jan. 20 following nearly two years of closures and limited hours.
GERMS is an on-campus, student-run EMS group that responds free of charge to calls regarding intoxication, illnesses and injuries on campus and in the off-campus neighborhoods of West Georgetown, Burleith and Foxhall. After gradually increasing operations during the fall 2021 semester, GERMS now has enough trained drivers and crew leaders to expand to their pre-COVID-19 pandemic 24-hour service.
After spending a semester recruiting and training new members, GERMS is fully equipped to increase its hours, according to Julia Foley (COL ’22), GERMS captain.
“We have a rigorous internal training process to ensure the best quality of care for the campus community, so we spent the majority of last semester internally training our members to take on the roles of driver and crew leader,” Foley wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Every shift includes three to five GERMS members, all of whom are emergency medical technicians (EMT), including one driver and one crew leader, according to Grace Murray (NHS ’22), GERMS vice president of operations.
At the start of the fall 2021 semester, GERMS announced they would not be accepting new members and would only be operating between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, citing a lack of training for members during the pandemic. Several members were trained and promoted to driver and crew leader positions in September, allowing GERMS to expand its operating hours Sept. 30 to span from Thursdays at 8 p.m. to Mondays at 8 a.m.
According to Foley, it was important for GERMS to return to 24-hour service in an effort to alleviate pandemic related pressures on the wider Washington, D.C. healthcare system.
“GERMS is a free medical service and we want to be available as much as possible to provide free & accessible emergency medical care and transport to the hospital for the Georgetown community,” Foley wrote. “We felt this was especially important now more than ever with staffing limitations across the healthcare system, including in DC Fire & EMS, due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.”
When GERMS receives a student call, its EMTs assess the patient, provide care and transport the patient to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Emergency Department if necessary. While the services GERMS provides are free of charge, typical ambulance fees in Washington, D.C., are $1,000.
GERMS will continue to assist the campus community as it returns to 24-hour service, according to a university spokesperson.
“We are pleased to see GERMS resume its normal operating hours, and return to their role as first responders to the needs of our campus, after working to train and certify additional students and increasing its staff,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
GERMS had to recruit and train first-years and sophomores who had never been to campus before the fall 2021 semester before expanding services, according to Murray.
“Because only half of the campus population had experienced GERMS before, we knew we needed to work hard to ensure that all students were aware of the services GERMS can provide,” Murray wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We know that us not being 24/7 in the fall was abnormal for GERMS, but we are excited to now be able to provide our services consistently to our community.”
GERMS accepted new applicants in December for their spring 2022 probationary class alongside their existing EMT training class, which is returning for the spring.
While GERMS has yet to reach its pre-pandemic membership levels, with 64 members as opposed to past years of 85 to 100 members, current members are devoted to helping students in need of emergency care, according to Foley.
“Although we have a smaller membership, our current members are very committed to GERMS which is why we are able to return to 24/7 service despite a smaller membership than we’ve had previously,” Foley wrote.
GERMS plans on continuing its renewed 24-hour operations for the remainder of the spring 2022 semester, according to Foley.
“We hope students will now know that with our new hours, you can call us at any hour of the day and we will be there to support you,” Foley wrote.