In the Spotlight:

The History of University Ambulance Service

What follows is a brief history of the Penn State University Ambulance Service. You can also get a feel for our history by reading through a few news articles written about UAS and its members.

In the late 1940s - early 1950s, the then Penn State College Office of Safety identified a need to provide emergency transportation for injured and ill students to the Centre County Hospital located 10 miles away in the town of Bellefonte. The Penn State Police utilized a patrol wagon rigged with a stretcher to transport students in need of emergency care. This system evolved over the years and went through many changes as EMS changed throughout the United States. Eventually the service came to fall under the Penn State University Health Services Office of Emergency Medical Services. The Senior Class Gift in 1956 was an Ambulance for Ritenour Health Center. The cost then for the ambulance was $9,500.

By the 1970s free 24 hour transport service was being provided in a 1974 van type ambulance utilizing student EMS staff to supplement the health center staff. In the mid-70s emergency treatment at the campus health center was free during the day and cost $3.50 after 4:45 pm. An emergency room visit to the hospital cost $6.50 for the ER and $11 for the ER physician. A ride in the off campus community ambulance cost $25. Ten students were hired to staff the University ambulance between 5 pm and 8 am and 24 hours on weekends. Student attendants were paid an average of $2.65 per hour. The University's ambulance service was answering an average of 700 calls per year. In 1976, the University Health Service, in cooperation with Continuing Education and the then College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, offered the first EMT course held at Penn State. Every year since that date, the EMS staff at the Health Service has coordinated and taught all sections of the University's EMS course. In 1978, the University Faculty Senate approved this course as Health Education 403, a four credit offering in the Health Education Department. In the early 1980s, it was taught during the day as a regular curriculum offering. Since that time, it has been offered as a continuing education 4 credit course. In 1999, a full time Instructor/EMS Supervisor was hired to oversee the Office of EMS's educational programming. The EMT course is currently offered every Fall and Spring semesters as Kinesiology 403 in the College of Health and Human Development. Other courses offered for Kinesiology credit include Basic Trauma Life Support, EMS operations (a training program for new volunteers), and various state Department of Health continuing education programs.

In 1980, University Ambulance Service became one of only 25 percent of Pennsylvania ambulances companies, and one of only two services in Centre County at the time to attain Voluntary Ambulance Service Certification (VASC). The VASC program recognized high levels of quality and was the forerunner to Pennsylvania state ambulance licensure. By 1980 the service was making almost 1,000 trips per year and cost $40,000 a year to operate. Due to rising costs, a $20 charge for University ambulance service was initiated. At the time, the off campus community ambulance charged $40 for a trip. In 1981 the old van-type ambulance was replaced with a new 1981 Type III ambulance at a cost of $40,000 paid for by alumni donations. A second Type III ambulance was obtained in 1988 and the service operated two ambulances answering over 1,200 calls per year until 1991 when the 1981 ambulance was retired. The 1988 ambulance was retired and a 1997 Ford 350 power stroke diesel Type III with McCoy-Miller box was placed in service in the spring of 1997. A second ambulance, a 2004 Ford E350 power stroke diesel Type III with McCoy-Miller box was added in the spring of 2004.

In August of 2010, a 2009 GMC 4500 Road Rescue ambulance was added and the 1997 Ford was retired.

In January of 2015, a 2014 Ford E350 Road Rescue ambulance was added to the fleet, bringing our current number of ambulances to 3.

The present day UAS is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, operates 24/7, and responds to over 1400 ambulance calls per year on the University Park Campus. During the 2008 calendar year alone, our staff evaluated over 1700 individuals, including special events. It currently operates three BLS AED equipped Type III ambulances (2050, 2051 and 2052) and employs a full time EMS Manager, an EMS Supervisor, and an Instructor/EMS Supervisor. The heart of the service is the student work force, comprised of a several dozen student crew members and a few dozen additional trainees in the volunteer program. UAS also employs several nurses, doctors, paramedics and additional EMTs during certain special events on campus. ALS level services at special events operate under medical command of an emergency physician from the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

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