As if Yalies do not have enough stress, a select group of students is embracing an extracurricular activity that is a matter of life and death.

The Yale Student Emergency Medical Services (YSEMS) is a student organization that provides on-the-scene medical care at many Yale athletic events and provides courses to educate students in the skills needed to save lives.

For the first time, this year YSEMS was Connecticut certified as a Supplemental First Responder/Non-Response Emergency Medical Service. With this designation, YSEMS provides standby Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) at many Yale athletic events, including club rugby and tae kwon do, attending to patients until the American Medical Response (AMR) EMTs arrive. AMR is a national organization providing emergency services that provides care for New Haven.

“If you call 911, we’re not going to show up at your doorstep — for the time being,” said Jonathan Waks ’04, YSEMS Director of Operations. “We stand by [at high-risk sporting events] in case something does happen. That way — we’ll take care of the patient for however long it takes the ambulance to arrive. It helps out AMR a lot, because once they get to the scene, they don’t have to start stabilizing the patient. We’ve already done that.”

In addition to medical care responsibilities, YSEMS provides a course each semester to instruct students and community members on the skills necessary to be an EMT. The course is taught by Shaun E. Heffernan, an experienced firefighter and paramedic on the faculty at the Yale University School of Medicine, specifically in Emergency Medicine. Enrollment in the bi-weekly classes has dramatically increased in the past few years.

“We started with about 10 students [enrolled in the EMT class], and now we can hold about 50,” Waks said. “Basically we’re training people to be EMTs — hopefully for us, as Yale student EMTs, but also to go out and have the skills they need to save people’s lives.”

At the end of the course, students must pass a state written test and a practical test. Passing this test means students gain national registry and Connecticut state certification. Many students choose to work with YSEMS, and others volunteer in surrounding communities like Stratford, Conn.

As part of the course, students also volunteer at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Many get real patient contact under the watch of Emergency Room physicians.

“We interview patients, take medical history, record patients’ symptoms,” Dylan Davey ’05, YSEMS administrative officer and class coordinator, said. “It’s in a controlled environment with doctors around — but it’s a baby step toward to being able, capable, responsible and comfortable with patient care.”

Many students who participate in YSEMS plan on attending medical school after graduation. Director of Yale School of Medicine Admissions Richard Silverman said such experience is an asset to a student considering the medical profession.

“[It is important that a student] has had or made the opportunity to take care of people — EMT training is a great way to do this, and to test your commitment to medicine,” Silverman said. “Those kinds of experiences help get you ready for a career in medicine, and help others decide not to go into a career in medicine, and that’s valuable too.”

Spaces are still available for the EMT training class this semester.