Students practice CPR

First-Year Medical Students Learn Emergency Medicine Skills

The inaugural first responders course for first-year medical students at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons was held Oct. 21.

“Our hope with this course is to enable students to respond appropriately to emergencies from the beginning of medical school,” says Lauren Titone, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, who led the training. “They should walk away from here with tangible skills that are actually lifesaving.”

Twenty students moved through five stations for four hours to learn CPR, how to clear a blocked airway, how to respond to allergies, and more from adult and pediatric emergency faculty.

“Even though they don’t have clinical experience yet, if something happens, they are now empowered to help somebody and potentially save a life,” Titone says. “Though it might seem easy enough, it’s kind of scary to do if you have never used an EpiPen, done CPR, or seen what an automated external defibrillator looks like.”

After a basic overview, the students learned trauma assessment and initial care, using mannequins for CPR and rescue breaths. They practiced using important life-saving tools such as the automated external defibrillator (AED), tourniquet, and EpiPen.

At Columbia, first-year medical students start with introductions to theory and concepts in anatomy, molecular mechanisms and disease, and foundations of clinical medicine. "This is one of our first hands-on practices in medicine,” says Aarti Kumar, a medical student at VP&S. “As a first-year medical student, I have often felt like I wouldn’t be able to help anyone, but this course gave me some idea of how I can care for someone in an emergency situation.”