EMS: Staying Safe and Strong

Since 1973, EMS practitioners have been critical component of emergency medicine and the public health safety net.

As a nation that has embraced all things social media, many of us are aware of National Oreo Day, Siblings Day, Hamburger Month, and so on. How many of us, though, have heard of National Emergency Medical Services Week, let alone seen posts on Facebook about it?

In case it’s not obvious, National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week is for recognizing those emergency medical professionals who respond to emergency requests for medical and emotional help, provide treatment, and, in many cases transportation to a healthcare facility. In addition, EMS professionals in many communities provide non-emergent transport services, taking patients home from the hospital or caring for patients while they are being transferred between healthcare facilities.

In 1973, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS Week to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do in our nation’s communities. EMS was a new profession back then, and it’s only continued to grow in scope and importance.

Celebrate EMS Professionals

Although certification and education levels vary from state to state, the most common types of emergency medical services personnel are:

  • First responder
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – Basic
  • Emergency Medical Technician – Advanced (AEMT)
  • Paramedic

Certification levels of EMS personnel vary in range and vary from state to state. These levels progress from very basic first aid care with some hours of training, through certified professionals that can provide cardiac monitoring and drug therapy. Some colleges and universities now offer four-year degrees in EMS.

As a little state of the industry update, in many areas, the status of EMS is not so great. The cost of training, work conditions, and potential hazards coupled with low wages, have contributed to far fewer EMS professionals entering the career versus the number leaving it. Other higher-paying, more stable public safety or healthcare jobs exist out there. In many communities, a job making fast-food sandwiches pays more per hour than a starting basic EMT makes.

In addition, many EMS agencies continue to take a beating financially, providing ever-increasingly expensive services while operating under constant pressure of decreasing reimbursements for their work from the health insurance agencies, private and governmental. The cost of new equipment, education for new treatment modalities, and attempts at raising wages to retain staff are financial hurdles EMS administrators face annually.

Despite happening since 1973, the people who primarily know about EMS Week are EMS professionals themselves, plus their families, and occasionally, the hospitals to which EMS professionals transport patients. Typically very little or no public recognition is according these hard-working members of your communities. As a result, EMS agencies end up doing cookouts or catered lunches for their staff, professional-association-related recognition events for themselves or just trudge along as if this week is no different than any other work week. It’s sad! It’s kind of like throwing your own birthday party.

Take some time to do at least one of the following this week (and into the future):

  • Figure out who the EMS professionals in your community are. Mention them on your social media before or after you post your coffee or lunch selfie or Candy Crush score. Simple things matter.
  • If you cross paths with an EMS crew sometime this week, tell them “thanks” for what they do. Maybe offer a pat on the back or offer to purchase their coffee/drink at the local convenience store. I wouldn’t go as far as to offer run-up-and-scream-aggressive hugs…that might be a little creepy.
  • In addition, if you own a company, maybe post a “Thank You” sign at your business OR let your local EMS providers know that they are welcome to a discount on your goods/services this week.

Not only will the EMS professionals APPRECIATE what you do, you will probably stun the heck out of them given the fact that someone even KNEW that it was National EMS Week!

PocketNurse_EMS Week image
An image from John’s early days as an EMT. He’s on the right.

This is a guest post from John Chamberlin, an EMS professional from the days of yore (see image). John still works as a part-time paramedic for Northwest EMS, which is in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

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