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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Heskett Center training gives students skill set, confidence to handle emergencies on campus

Students+walk+to+and+from+the+Heskett+Center+on+Jan.+24.+
Mia Hennen
Students walk to and from the Heskett Center on Jan. 24.

For more than 30 years, Beth Albers has taught life-saving techniques and emergency training to Wichita community members. 

Albers — the director of aquatics and risk management, the coordinator of events and the training center director at the Heskett Center  — has provided more than 500 Heskett employees, from receptionists to lifeguards, with potentially life-saving training and certifications over the last six years. 

“It’s just what we do,” Albers said. “There’s a fulfillment of being able to take care of somebody when they need it.”

In the event of an emergency at the Heskett Center, Wichita State’s recreation center, Albers and her team of student leads are responsible for the health and lives of the facility’s hundreds of daily guests, including students, intramural teams and local visiting organizations.

“This is a ginormous building,” Albers said. “They’re (Heskett employees) the first responders to the victim. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in — if you’re closest (to an emergency), it’s your scene.”

As the campus’ largest student employer, the Heskett Center and its faculty members provide essential training and certifications to student employees. All Heskett Center employees and faculty members are required to have basic life support (BLS) training, which includes CPR, Automated External Defibrillator (AED) for the professional rescuer, and first aid certification. 

Heskett employees practice the building’s emergency action plan monthly to maintain a safe environment. Additionally, employees attend two in-service days at the beginning of each semester, where each employee runs through and practices each of their certified training. These practices include rescues, scanning for injuries, pulling unconscious people out of the water, and even customer service training.

“(That’s) a really long time when you have pulled someone out of the water,” Albers said. “It’s exhausting, but it’s what actually would happen, so I want (employees) to be doing it all the time. And then when it happens, you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, I had that (training).’”

The staff also conducts monthly “Red Mannequin” drills, where a mannequin is hidden somewhere in the building. The staff then search for this “unconscious patron” and apply the appropriate care.

“We run through the emergency as if it is real,” Albers said. “This gives them practice and confidence that they could handle a true emergency.”

Last semester, Albers and two Heskett student employees were called to action when a caregiver from Club Parkinson’s collapsed during one of the organization’s regular visits to the Heskett Center. Albers and the employees performed over 12 minutes of CPR and attempted other life-saving measures before Wichita paramedics took over the scene. Sedgwick County EMS later pronounced the man dead.

“We did what we needed to do, and nothing we did was going to change the outcome, unfortunately,” Albers said. “And so it kind of changed how we did our next training with our staff because there were little details that I know to say (when training others), but once I experienced it, are very different.”

Former Wichita State University Police Department Officer Nathaniel Johnson, who responded to the emergency that day, said that the efficiency of the staff makes responding to incidents much easier for first responders.

“When we arrived, walking in and … seeing CPR being done and knowing that it’s the best staff and knowing that they’re trained in that, it really helps us be able to coordinate getting those other first responders in there,” Johnson said.

Albers said that, over the following weeks, as her team recovered, she received calls and comments praising the center and its employees for their rapid response.

“The thing that makes me feel good about the level of training that we do here is that the police got the call, (they) got over here, and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s Beth and her staff — they got it,’” Albers said. “I had a couple of them call me, and they were like … ‘If somebody’s going down on this campus, it needs to be in the Heskett.’”

Typically, the Heskett Center sees less severe emergencies, with overheating, rolled ankles during intramurals and a few falls from the Club Parkinson’s comprising the majority of the staff’s outgoing emergency response calls.

“We really have more of that stuff, or like low blood sugar, than we have big things,” Albers said.

Albers said that the knowledge and skill sets obtained by employees who undergo emergency training can help them in all aspects of their lives later on.

“This (working at the Heskett) is learning to lead a group of people in a situation that is not ideal,” Albers said. “You’re going to come up across those in your life … everywhere. It’s a really good applied learning (experience).”

Anyone can receive emergency training and certification from the Heskett Center, regardless of enrollment status or prior medical knowledge. The Heskett Center does not charge additional fees on top of the required certification cost as part of Albers and other faculty’s commitment to providing accessible, affordable and practical emergency training.

“I want them to take those skills and apply them elsewhere,” Albers said. “I’m not raising Olympic lifeguards. I’m raising people to go out into the world and be good stewards of their job.”

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About the Contributors
Allison Campbell, News Editor
Allison Campbell is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. Campbell is a junior pursuing a journalism and media production degree with a minor in English. Campbell hopes to pursue a career in writing or editing after graduation. They use any pronouns.
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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