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Leading emergency services on campus

Gillian Turner, right, is seen here in the VEMS ambulance with a colleague. She works long shifts for the emergency services group in addition to handling the rigors of the nursing curriculum. Her leadership has resulted in being named a VEMS captain.

Balancing a busy schedule including classes, clinical rotations, and volunteering with the Villanova Emergency Medical Services Unit (VEMS), is all in a day’s work for junior nursing student Gillian Turner.  With a strong desire to make a community service contribution by helping people in need of medical attention, Gillian decided to join VEMS with a friend from her dormitory during her freshman year. 

VEMS is an entirely student run organization that is licensed to provide basic life support and pre-hospital care to members of the Villanova community who require emergency medical services. “We deal with a lot of sports injuries and sick patients who often need to be transported to the hospital,” says Gillian.  Located in the Student Health Center, the organization offers free services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  

Gillian broadened her global health perspective in the Domincan Republic.

Before college, Gillian admits she was not interested in health care or in the nursing profession. “In high school, I always thought that I was going to be a teacher. Then, I had the opportunity to attend a medical camp over summer break. After that experience, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse,” Gillian recalls.   She learned that she loves working with children and aspires to be a pediatric emergency nurse.  Gillian had the opportunity to take her love of providing compassionate care abroad when she traveled to the Dominican Republic with the College of Nursing.  “It was such a phenomenal experience,” says Gillian, “I can’t wait to return and to mentor the underclassmen my senior year.”

“As a VEMS volunteer, I have the opportunity to gain hands-on patient care experience and the ability to take on leadership roles within the organization,” explains Gillian.  However, the process of becoming a qualified VEMS team member is lengthy and requires a considerable commitment.  Initially, she obtained her CPR certification and was allowed to be an observer. Gillian notes, “I watched the upper classmen as they took calls, drove the ambulance, and provided medical care to people in need. Over summer break, I took class twice a week from 8:00 am to 5:00pm to become a certified emergency medical technician.” The certification enabled Gillian to work as an EMT at Hershey Park last summer. 

Gillian has worked her way up the ranks of the VEMS organization throughout her college career. She explains, “I usually run one fourteen-hour shift during the week and at least one eighteen-hour weekend shift a month.” Her dedication and hard work earned her a recent promotion, through the election of her peers, to the position of captain.  As a captain, “I have to be cleared to drive the ambulance and be a licensed EMT,” she offers. Some of her other leadership responsibilities include reviewing prospective volunteer applications, mentoring new volunteers, and creating the staff schedule.  “It can be challenging to coordinate everything and be a nursing student at the same time, but I really enjoy what I do,” says Gillian.

When asked what she would like for people to know about the work that she does with VEMS, Gillian replies, “Overall, we just want to get the message out there that we’re here to help.” VEMS has made great contributions to the Villanova community. Gillian said, “We have helped a lot of very sick students, and our goal is to continue to create a positive image on campus.”