In the Spotlight: Elizabeth Lisnow '20, Sociology Major and Volunteer EMT

Leah Schmerl


As a trained volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), senior Liz Lisnow could not have imagined that her final semester at St. Francis College would put her on the frontlines of battling an historic global pandemic.

Manhattan-native Liz now lives on Long Island, and volunteers with two departments there: the Glen Cove Volunteer EMS Corps and the Sea Cliff Fire Department, helping provide first-responder medical care to area residents in need. Until recently – when she had to halt her EMT work due to the risks to her own health – Liz, along with her colleagues, was responding almost exclusively to COVID-related calls.

Liz reflected on her service as an EMT and her years as a St. Francis College undergraduate.

What's your work like as an EMT?

With the fire department, when your pager goes off, you just go running. With Glen Cove EMS, you put in set shifts.It's 30 hours a month, and you do at least two overnights per month, which is 8 pm to 6 am. Right now, 90% of our calls are COVID. So it's kind of scary at the moment.

How do you handle all these calls?

We have criteria you have to meet to get transported [to a hospital]. If you don't meet it, we tell you to stay home and self-medicate.

Our hospitals are filled up with patients on ventilators. Sometimes we sit in the waiting room for an hour to check in a patient in. So really, we just tell you to stay home and call if it's a true emergency.

What does it feel like to be on the front lines of this crisis?

It's scary for me, especially because I have asthma, so I have to be extra careful [note: Liz has paused her EMT work temporarily because of the risks]. But we have protocols and procedures in place. We wear masks, sometimes we wear suits, we wear gloves all the time on every call.Even if it's not a COVID call, we take precautions. It's scary because you never know what you're walking info.

How did you get trained to do this work?

For EMS, they will put you in EMT school. I did the accelerated program, which is three months, three days a week. It really is a lot of hard work. You take the state test at the end.

I officially became an EMT in 2018. I had been volunteering before that, doing probationary work in the fire department, helping clean up, setting up, going to meetings, doing training. They still allow you to come and practice that stuff while you're working to get your EMT card.

What prompted you to become a volunteer EMT?

My grandmother died in 2013. I had just started college and it was a hard time for me. She had a really bad fall and hit her head. An EMT came within one minute [of calling] and I watched what they did. That's when I decided: I want to do that. I want to be an EMT.

You mentioned starting college in 2013. You're set to graduate this year. Tell me about that journey.

I have been attending St. Francis consistently every semester [since 2013] but just part-time. My beginning at St. Francis was rough because all four of my grandparents passed away within four years. That was tough on me. I just pushed through and I'm so happy to be graduating.

[Sociology] Professor [Emily] Horowitz has helped me every step of the way trying to get here. She knows I've been going to St. Francis for seven years. She knows more than anyone I want to be done. When Professor Horowitz told me I had enough credits to graduate [at the end of spring semester], I just lost my mind. I cried.

How did you select St. Francis College?

I was actually looking to go to art school. I wanted to do photography, graphic design. St. Francis was the only non-art school I applied to. I forgot to submit my portfolios with my art school applications, however and St. Francis was the only school I got into. I love it so much. I have ADHD and so the small classes really helped me focus. I get the attention I need.

What's your plan after graduation?

I will be getting my master's degree. I want to take a year off first, and during that time I'm going to try to find you a position in social work to get some practice.I eventually want to work in adoption. I chose adoption because I'm adopted myself. So that hits home.