Eighteen year old Ilana Olin is coming off a great year. She achieved High Honors as a senior at Wilton High School and she’s graduating tomorrow and headed to Bowdoin College in the fall.
But there’s one other achievement Ilana just reached that is incredible and very out of the ordinary for someone her age. She was just named as the newest Crew Chief at Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC).
There was a long, complicated process for Ilana make that milestone, starting two years ago.
“I had volunteered in Stamford Hospital through their junior volunteer summer program, and I really enjoyed the patient interaction. I was a bit limited in terms of how much I could personally assist patients, as I was still young and had little training. When I found out I could become an EMT at 16, I immediately knew this was the next step for me. I decided to learn more about a different field of medicine while increasing my ability to provide direct patient care,” she says.
But why opt to volunteer for the WVAC? “Volunteering as an EMT combines my passion for helping others and my interest in science and medicine. I decided to volunteer with WVAC in particular because I wanted to give back to my very own community,” Ilana adds.
She joined the WVAC as a probationary member after getting certified as an EMT at age 16, during the summer after 10th grade, through an EMT certification at Stamford Hospital. The accelerated course took approximately 180 hours, and she took a national written exam as well as a practical skills exam to earn her CT state certification and EMT license. She was voted in as a full member six months later, but to be considered for crew chief required her to be 18 years old.
Crews at WVAC typically have two people—a driver and the crew chief. Crew chiefs are the main providers of patient care on a BLS (basic life support) call and focus their energy on treating the patient in addition to scene management. Drivers are also trained in patient care in addition to their main responsibility of driving the ambulance. As EMTs, the duo are trained to provide BLS level care; on calls that require ALS (advanced life support), a paramedic contracted through Norwalk Hospital responds as well and collaborates with the members of the WVAC crew to ensure the highest level of patient care.
Sometimes, a third WVAC member called an apprentice goes on a call. All members must start as an apprentice for six months with WVAC before becoming eligible for the crew chief position; it’s a good way to learn the ropes and still provide patient care with direction from more experienced EMTs. Ilana rode as an apprentice for about a year per CT regulations because she wasn’t allowed to provide unsupervised patient care or be considered for the crew chief position until she turned 18.
According to Brian McDermott, a WVAC member who handles communications, Ilana is currently the Corps’ youngest crew chief and the only high school student out of the five student members who is currently a crew chief (there have been other high school-aged crew chiefs in the organization’s history).
In addition to being a valued crew member, this year alone she successfully helped four different Brownie and Girl Scout troops earn their first aid badges, and she participated in WVAC’s fundraising for Relay For Life, all while maintaining her studies.
When she starts at Bowdoin in the fall and pursues a pre-med major, she hopes to continue volunteering, perhaps with the local ambulance or in the emergency department of a nearby hospital. “Though I’m not sure yet exactly how I will be involved, I am eager to contribute to the community there using my EMT certification,” she says. That means she’ll have to get her national certification—and retake the national exams now that she’s over 18. She’s planning on doing that over the summer.
For Ilana, it seems helping others will be her life-long mission, but she adds there’s something else amazing that she gets out of her volunteer EMT experience—that it was an amazing opportunity to work as part of a team, side by side with her fellow community members.
“I have learned so much from all of the volunteers—each crew is a different combination of members, but on every call I have great confidence in our ability to work together in order to provide the best possible care for our patients,” she says. “I always look forward to working with amazing people to the best of our ability, whether it’s on duty on the ambulance, providing EMS back up at a community event, or teaching the newest generation through Girl Scout/Brownie first aid classes. There is a lot of uncertainty in the field of emergency medicine, but I am grateful to know that I always have the support of my fellow WVAC members.”