The Importance of Creating a Comprehensive Medical Team for Campus Emergencies

Those you hire as part of a comprehensive medical team can also work with students directly, promote health initiatives on campus, or work on other related projects that can help keep the student body healthy.
Published: November 20, 2023

Emergencies can (and do) happen on campuses of all sizes. No one likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but it’s important for campus administrators to understand and accept that things happen, even with precautions and the best intentions. When emergencies occur on campus, proper preparation and a quick response time can make a huge difference in the outcome for students and staff who might be impacted.

There are many steps administrators can take to help ensure that everyone on campus is protected. One important measure is to create a comprehensive medical team that’s ready to respond in case of a campus emergency. So, why is this so important, and what does it look like in practice?

Understanding Campus Emergencies

Campus emergencies can take many forms. A natural disaster could pose a threat to those on campus, causing injuries. Or, an outbreak of infectious disease could sweep through the campus. Violent incidents, accidents, and other emergencies can also occur, potentially leading to injuries or even deaths.

When a campus emergency occurs, things tend to happen very quickly. If someone is experiencing a serious medical event, there is an active shooter or a fire breaks out and causes injuries, for instance, caring for those who have been impacted needs to happen right away. Sometimes, a few critical minutes can save someone’s life, making an on-campus response team incredibly important.

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The Role of a Comprehensive Medical Team

Although most campuses have at least a nurse on staff, not all have a comprehensive medical team. While it’s true that a student or staff member could call 911 in case of an emergency, a dedicated medical team can help reduce risks by cutting down on response time.

A specialized medical team can respond quickly in case of an emergency. In some situations, they might be able to reduce the impact of injuries or even save lives. Team members are trained in emergency response and know what to do if something happens on campus.

Recruiting Qualified Medical Professionals

For a comprehensive medical team on campus to be truly effective, qualified medical professionals are needed. When hiring, look for people who have experience in emergency medical care or disaster response, as these individuals will need less training to be effective on campus.

Making partnerships with local medical schools or associations can help with recruiting. As more students turn to the nurse practitioner career path, schools will have the opportunity to hire people with significant medical knowledge.

Some schools have also used volunteers to help with emergency response. However, this means that those responding to emergency situations won’t have the kind of training they need to properly triage and get treatment for those who are injured or ill.

Establishing Effective Communication Channels

In order for a comprehensive medical team to be an effective, worthwhile investment, clear communication is absolutely critical. Developing a system for notifying members of the medical team when an emergency occurs is the first step. However, there’s a lot more to emergency communications than the initial call.

Once the call comes in, the team needs to minimize confusion and be able to communicate freely with one another. Creating a hierarchy, protocols for emergency response, and using the proper equipment can all help ensure that there are no hiccups that reduce the team’s efficiency and effectiveness.

With so many options for real-time communication, it’s up to campus officials and security personnel to devise a system that works for the medical team. What works for one team might not be quite as effective for another.

Collaborating with Campus Security and Emergency Services

Coordination between campus security and the medical team is an important part of the emergency response plan. Sharing information, increasing awareness of potential threats on campus, and working together in an emergency helps to reduce issues that can arise in any school setting.

Bringing security and emergency services together to develop emergency response protocols is extremely beneficial. These teams can often bring up unique points of discussion and help to ensure that everyone is on board with the official response plan.

Conducting Regular Training and Drills

In many roles, ongoing practice is built into the job. As an emergency responder, though, many people don’t get the chance to use their training for months or even years. When the time comes, they might not be able to remember what they need to do to respond appropriately.

That’s where drills and ongoing training come in. By conducting drills, campus medical responders can keep their skills sharp and be prepared should an actual emergency occur.
Funding a comprehensive medical team also involves making sure that the team has access to adequate resources and equipment. If not, they will not be able to achieve their goals and work efficiently to address injuries during an emergency.

Once the necessary supplies are stocked, they need to be maintained. Keeping a list of equipment and supplies, plus coming up with a plan for ensuring that these resources are replenished regularly, is critical. This includes keeping track of supplies that haven’t been used to ensure they haven’t expired.

Other Roles for Medical Team Personnel

With luck, emergencies on campus should be rare. So, how do you keep your medical team busy during day-to-day campus life? The best way to approach the issue is to hire people with the expectation that their main role might not be responding to medical emergencies.

Those you hire as part of a comprehensive medical team can also work with students directly (especially if you hire a nurse practitioner or other medical provider who can prescribe and diagnose), promote health initiatives on campus, or work on other related projects that can help keep the student body healthy. While each team member should be ready and able to respond in an emergency, it’s not realistic for most campuses to hire someone to wait on call at all times, especially without giving them additional duties.

A Comprehensive Medical Team Saves Lives (And Helps Ease Parents’ Minds)

Until your campus has a major emergency, hiring a comprehensive medical team might feel like an extravagance. However, with the increase in school violence and natural disasters facing so many communities right now, parents are understandably worried. Investing in a qualified team of medical personnel with the ability to respond immediately can help put families’ minds at ease.

Being prepared and proactive can make a huge difference in safety on campus. As a silver lining, taking these kinds of safety measures can be good PR for any school. By assembling a team to respond in a worst-case scenario, school officials can help protect students and staff in a safe and healthy learning environment.

Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

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