As you plan for EMS Week 2018, it’s helpful to reflect on how other organizations throughout the country honor and inspire the fire and EMS professionals who put their lives on the line every day. EMS leaders emphasize that it’s not just about celebrating and paying tribute to those who serve, but it’s also a time to educate the public on how the EMS system works, and to remind citizens about the valuable and indispensable roles that all EMS services play in the community.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO EDUCATE
“EMS Week is an opportunity for all of us to educate the community we serve about pre-hospital medicine and the services we offer,” says Brian Schaeffer, Fire Chief and paramedic for the City of Spokane Fire Department. “A common saying in the industry is that, ‘if you have seen one EMS system, you have seen one EMS system.’ While it is often said in jest, the comment is a reality across this country,” continues Schaeffer.
Schaeffer believes that EMS Week is the ideal time to explain how EMS services operate differently in every community, county and state. “There are private transport services, first response services, fire-based services, third-party services—career, volunteer or combinations, and literally an almost infinite number of variations. Communities throughout the United States that are fortunate enough to have an EMS system, regardless of its type, should take the opportunity to educate the public about how their system works, its governance, its capabilities, and especially celebrate the responders.”
Robyn Asher, Professional Development Manager of Priority Ambulance in Knoxville, Tennessee, sees EMS Week as an opportunity to explain the importance of EMS to the community. “There are many different roles of EMS personnel, but they all share a common goal: excellent patient care,” says Asher. “EMS Week is an excellent chance to educate the community about all aspects of EMS and how every EMT or paramedic—whether on an ambulance, fire engine or in a facility—is necessary to make the EMS system work.”
Tom Jenkins, Fire Chief for the City of Rogers, Arkansas, agrees that the week is the perfect time to explain the EMS model to the community. “For us, EMS Week is as much about celebrating the EMS worker as it is about celebrating how we provide EMS to our community in our ALS fire-based model,” says Jenkins. “Commonly, the local healthcare systems will provide lunches for our firefighters and paramedics, while the department focuses its efforts at using social media and traditional print and TV media to explain our fire-based EMS delivery model. This education effort includes information on the use of emergency medical dispatch at our 911 center, the ongoing effort to train, recruit, and retain paramedics and a showcase of the various technologies we use to treat patients.”
Schaeffer explains that the week is also about making community connections through valuable outreach programs such as stroke and chest pain awareness, CPR training, injury prevention and bicycle safety.
A TIME TO CELEBRATE, HONOR AND RECOGNIZE
During EMS Week, organizations across the country celebrate and honor providers with pancake breakfasts, BBQs, parties, gifts and award ceremonies. These events give fire, police and EMS team members an opportunity to relax and bond with co-workers, hospital staff and executives.
Schaeffer believes it’s a lot about executives and healthcare partners simply reaching out to responders. “In the Spokane Fire Department, our executive and legislative branches come together and recognize the responders and the week with a Proclamation recognizing EMS Week to acknowledge the pride for our organization and services we deliver.”
“EMS Week is not only a celebration, though, it is an opportunity. The opportunity is one of education and awareness for the community and a chance for us in organizational leadership to say thank you to the talented professionals who provide the best medicine possible in our streets every day,” says Schaeffer.
THE ROLES AND GOALS OF LEADERSHIP
Charles A. Blankenship, Manager of System EMS Transport in the Asheville, North Carolina area also believes the week is really about leadership taking extra steps to recognize employees and partners. “Both our leadership team and the ED leadership team do a lot of additional rounding on staff during the week. Our health system leadership does some social media posts and thank yous during the week as well,” says Blankenship. “In short, we try to make them feel appreciated for the special people they are, to choose EMS as a profession and spend their days helping others.”
“People are at the heart of EMS, and EMS Week gives us the opportunity to ensure every EMT and paramedic understands their importance,” says Moreland.
“The most important aspect of EMS Week is to show appreciation to the ambulance crews who give so much to the job to ensure our patients are taken care of,” states Tracy Moreland, NRP, Operations Manager with Baptist Ambulance, a Priority Ambulance company in Booneville, Mississippi. “EMTs and paramedics are in demanding, fast-paced jobs that require compassion and skill to provide exceptional patient care. In the service of patients, our crews sacrifice, but their efforts can go unrecognized,” believes Moreland.
The goal of her department is to make sure that every employee feels celebrated and appreciated through appreciation gifts, meals and awards. “People are at the heart of EMS, and EMS Week gives us the opportunity to ensure every EMT and paramedic understands their importance.”
No matter how your organization chooses to commemorate the week, what’s important is seizing the opportunity to celebrate. “The fast pace and challenging environment of EMS rarely allows for time to take a breath, especially when family and hobbies balance your life,” says Bruce Evans, Fire Chief for the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District in Colorado. “Annually, to stop and celebrate with your second family—your public safety family—gives you a chance to take a breath and realize what a noble undertaking the work involves.”