Daniel Toycen ’21 has been working in Milwaukee as an EMT for the past year. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

The importance of first responders has become increasingly evident a year into the pandemic as hospitals and emergency rooms have remained all-hands-on-deck. Daniel Toycen ’21 is one of the many brave essential first responders tackling this pandemic head on.

The Lawrence University biology major has been working in Milwaukee as an emergency medical technician (EMT) since last March, balancing work with his studies. Toycen, who aspires to be a physician assistant, applied for the role right before the pandemic changed everyone’s lives.  

“I was looking to get patient-experience hours for applying to grad school and physician assistant programs,” he said. “I decided on EMT because you are seeing a wide range of patients and arguably seeing them at the most stressful point in their lives. I wanted to be able to develop my bedside manner with them during difficult times.”  

While he lives off campus in Appleton, Toycen opted to work in Milwaukee because of the high volume of calls.

“I also wanted to see the bigger hospitals in the area and how those hospitals work,” he said. “And I wanted to work with a more diverse patient pool.” 

When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic last March, Toycen, then a junior, knew hospitals were going to need more help. He started working as an EMT before COVID took a major a toll on Wisconsin hospitals, giving him a glimpse of EMT life “pre-pandemic,” he said.   

“A typical shift, you get there early to talk to the crew that is getting off shift,” Toycen said. “Then we check over the ambulance to make sure we have all of our supplies and the ambulance is working — all the lights are working, checking tires, things like that. Right after that we are put in service and are able to receive calls.” 

Important classroom lessons 

To qualify to be an EMT, Toycen took an accelerated course at Fox Valley Technical College. 

Toycen said he is particularly grateful for the skills he has learned in the classroom at Lawrence, as he finds himself tapping into those skills at work. In addition to his major in biology, he is pursuing a minor in biomedical ethics.

“My medical ethics courses and medical anthropology have both helped me be able to have knowledge on people’s backgrounds,” Toycen said. “[They taught me] how culture and health care intersect, and, being mindful of that, I am able to provide better care to the patients I do have. When I am out there in the field, I think back to lessons or discussions we had in class and I’m like, ‘Woah, this really applies here’.”  

When the pressure is on

Toycen has been on the call for some very high-pressure emergencies.  

“I was on a 16-hour shift and it was getting kind of late in our shift, and nothing exciting happened up until that point,” Toycen said. “Then we get a call, and we have no idea what we’re going for; it just says ‘assault in progress’. And then we get there, and the patient was stabbed four times in the back and obviously it was very serious. Right after we got done with that call, finished the report, this was probably at 4:30 in the morning, we get a call for a pedestrian that was hit by a car and the car was going like 50 miles an hour; so another call back-to-back at the end of a 16-hour shift super early in the morning.”

Toycen said his work as an EMT has reassured his path in the medical profession and he has even used his work as an EMT in his senior capstone project. Next up for Toycen is applying to physician assistant programs.  

Even though being an EMT is a high-pressure job, Toycen has not let it consume him. He continues to complete his course work at Lawrence remotely and plays on Lawrence’s men’s hockey team, all while maintaining health and safety protocols in the pandemic.

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.