A Day in the Life of Lou Toujague: An Ambulance-Driving EMT

Posted by Senior Matthew Carrigan on May 11, 2016

With graduation looming around the corner, senior Lou Toujague was unsure about what career path his life would take him down, but volunteering with Vestal Volunteer Emergency Squad (EMS) put any doubts he had at ease. As a volunteer member of Vestal EMS, Lou follows his passion by responding to emergency calls to provide medical care to patients. He also lives in the EMS facility and drives the ambulance as part of the Vestal EMS Bunk-In program.

Lou Toujague

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  • Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
  • Year: Senior
  • Major: Integrative neuroscience, with a minor in health and wellness
  • Career aspirations: Interested in pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant, medical doctor or paramedic
  • Certifications: Certified to do CPR and provide basic life support as an EMT
  • Clubs/organizations: Co-founder of Binghamton's pre-PA society, formerly an e-board member of Phi Delta Epsilon, the pre-med fraternity
  • Hour contributions: Over 300 hours of service with Vestal EMS during the fall semester, and 850 so far during the spring semester

Preparing for a career in healthcare

The Vestal EMS Bunk-In program provides students interested in pursuing a career in the medical field with free housing and amenities in exchange for their services driving the ambulance during three overnight shifts each week. A senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, Lou balances his work-intensive course load with his obligation to drive the ambulance, as well as calls that he regularly responds to with Vestal EMS as a registered EMT. Lou plans to work both as a nurse’s assistant at Wilson Medical Center's Emergency Room and as a co-instructor at a SUNY Broome EMT class over the summer. After graduation, he intends to take courses to become a paramedic, and subsequently evaluate his options in moving forward in the medical field.

Fun facts about Lou

  • Fitness enthusiast
  • Does men's haircuts
  • None of his family practices in medicine or healthcare
  • Finds fun fact questions difficult to answer
  • Previously worked as a Dickinson RA and as a student manager on campus
  • Would like to travel to Ireland: “I like the rain, just not when I’m in it.”
  • Enjoys reading about topics of interest, such as finance, behavior modification and personal efficacy
  • Favorite movie: The Kingsmen
  • Favorite book: Start by John Acuff

The Vestal EMS Bunk-in program

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Can you describe the program and its requirements?

"In exchange for driving the ambulance, the agency provides me with housing and amenities. I have my own bedroom, my own bathroom, a full kitchen, a luxurious porch and grill, a comfortable living room, and almost everything else, aside from food, is supplied. In terms of the work schedule, those 24 hours per week are very liberal. They are going to be from 10 p.m.-6 a.m., which is the overnight shift, when we are least staffed. If I wanted to go home, all I would have to do is schedule with my supervisor and find somebody to take my shifts, which would be another student or volunteer, and then I go home at my discretion. The only requirement is that you have a driver’s license in order to drive the ambulance, and a CPR certification, which the agency can help arrange. I’m also an EMT, meaning that I can provide basic life support to patients in the back of the ambulance when I’m not driving. I’m just required to drive the ambulance -- everything that I do is extra.”

What would a typical overnight shift be like?

"My shifts run 10 p.m.-6 a.m. By then, I’m usually in bed with my radio. When a call comes in, I drive to it and provide care. Most calls last about 45 minutes. Besides that, you’re not obligated to be outside of your room. When I’m not on the clock, I can be wherever I want to be. There is no such thing as being ‘on call.' The only real difference from a typical student living situation would be that sometimes when I wake up, there are people awake in the living area."

A day in Lou's shoes

Can you describe a day where you would be in class and on duty?

"This is a bad-case scenario for a busy day."

6 a.m. -- Wake up, then shower

6:30-7 a.m. -- Eat breakfast

7-8 a.m. -- Prepare for classes

8-8:15 a.m. -- Commute to campus

"I'm in class from 8:30 a.m.-1:05 p.m."

8:30-9:55 a.m. -- Anatomy and physiology

10:05-11:30 a.m. -- Psychophysiological awareness

11:40 a.m.-1:05 p.m. -- The science and application of exercise

1:05-1:20 p.m. -- Commute home

1:20-1:40 p.m. -- Eat lunch, prepare for the gym

1:40-2 p.m. -- Drive to the gym

2-3:30 p.m. -- Work out

3:30-4 p.m. -- Meet the ambulance for an off-duty call

4-6 p.m. -- Have friends over to hang out and get haircuts done

6-10 p.m. -- Study, get work done and unwind from the day

"From 10 p.m.- 6 a.m., I was on call to drive the ambulance."

10:50 a.m.-12:15 p.m. -- First call on the ambulance

12:15-1 a.m. -- Went to sleep

1-2:15 a.m. -- Had another call on the ambulance

2:15-3 a.m. -- Went back to sleep

3-4:30 a.m. -- Third and last call of the night

"After 4:30, I’m up for the day, to do paperwork for the calls and to wash the ambulances."

A new kind of exposure

What have you gained from this experience?

“With EMS overall, there’s this big assumption that when somebody calls an ambulance, they’re dying or it’s a terribly traumatic injury. It’s really not. You’re there for the people in the nursing home who can’t drive to the emergency room when their heart is acting up. What has kept me continuing to contribute to this agency is how much you learn from actually doing it. I took an EMT class, and I learned a set of skills, and I completely broke them down and built on that foundation again. It’s one thing to learn something, and another to do something. I met people here that, regardless of what I do, I’ll never forget. Mentors. Guidance counselors -- except you don’t have to set up an appointment with them for advice.”

How is living here different than simply volunteering?

“It’s one thing to dabble in something, but it’s another to live it. The amount of calls I did when I was volunteering here in comparison to now that I am living here has really increased. I’ve learned the value of teaching, and the value of providing in and out of the hospital."

Working for a greater purpose

Is there anything aside from medical knowledge you have learned here?

“Sometimes all you can do is help them develop a positive outlook. We can’t fix people all of the time, but we can be there for them. And that's what this job teaches you.”

How can students be involved?

"I would always encourage anybody to come by. We do observer shifts. People that apply can come and see what it is like to work in EMS. It’s not really as restricting as people think. Come as an observer and ask questions, because people don’t know what it’s like until they’re here."

While Lou is busy constantly, he believes that, “In life, everybody has the same amount of hours in a day, and it’s really about what you choose to do with them." 

Interested in applying for the Vestal EMS Bunk-In program? Find the application form here.

Contact Vestal EMS to find out what it takes to observe an EMT on a medical call.

Think you have a busy life as a student? Know somebody who does? Send in nominations for the "A Day in the Life" blog by e-mailing social@binghamton.edu.

Have questions, comments or concerns about the blog? E-mail us at social@binghamton.edu.

Matthew Carrigan is a senior majoring in English from Farmingdale, N.Y. He is interested in content writing, copywriting, public relations and communications.