The Unwired Medic

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Really, what is “Beyond The Call”?

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Welcome to another anniversary week of celebration of EMS providers and services kicked off Sunday, May 19th, 2019.

We should probably expect the same PSAs circulated every year, saying to wear your seat belts, take a Stop The Bleed Class, offers of free Car Seat Inspections, and to recognize our EMS providers and dispatchers for their service to our communities. Agencies will often take the opportunity to convey the value their services provide to the public. All of that is perfectly appropriate. I would add that we should continue to build on that by letting the public know that we also have distinctions in levels of training, and where that training is available to them, especially the EMR training.

Our employers and destination hospitals also often provide refreshments and gifts in recognition of EMS Week. Sometimes they are warmly received and sometimes they are ridiculed openly on social media (which publicly shows our lack of professionalism and graciousness). We also hear nonsensical statements about EMT’s saving Paramedics proverbial asses. I for one have worked with many EMT’s. Most I would categorize as excellent and dedicated. I have been fortunate to have several partners when I was an EMT convey their appreciation for the hard work I did to support them. Not once have I saved my Paramedic, nor have I needed saving. It was, simply, a team effort to ensuring the best possible patient outcome. If a Paramedic truly needs saving, then they should really evaluate their need for remedial education or consider the possibility they are in the wrong career. Frankly, if I were a non-EMS patient and I heard my Paramedic needed saving, I might roll the dice with Uber or Lyft, because that would terrify me. That is as prudent as betting on the tables in Vegas to provide me a white-collar retirement. If EMT’s are making a habit of saving your Paramedics, then the time has arrived for a real “Come to Jesus” talk. If we just like saying that, let’s leave that mentality behind. Let’s start talking about a real patient care team where each person on a crew contributes to the best possible patient outcome. Complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses (but not carry the dead weight of the other). Our patients deserve no less and we are here for them.

This brings me to the point of my EMS Week 2019 article.

What exactly is “Beyond The Call”?

If the universe were mine to command, Beyond The Call wouldn’t be about catchphrases and slogans and feel-good newspeak. It also wouldn’t be rushing to complete a trip sheet at the end of a run and jamming back out to the next call. It wouldn’t be about rushing to the bathroom between calls or grabbing a bite to eat while navigating to the run that just dropped in your lap. It wouldn’t be glorifying how our lives and our identities are only EMS. It certainly wouldn’t be about dropping several paid full page ads in the primary announcement that’s supposed to be about the people of EMS, not ad revenue, and the hawking of thematic gifts for your people (29 full page ads out of 58 pages of the document linked), in a document that really doesn’t seem to defined “Beyond The Call“. We get enough commercialization of EMS in our industry magazines and via social media, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But can we please have one thing where it’s about us? The providers? The people of EMS? And about the people that support the field crews?

Beyond The Call – What it means to me…

First…

… and foremost, it’s strictly about the people of EMS. Appreciation from commercial interests is fine. Advertising your products like this week is just another advertising opportunity, not so much. I see sponsorships opportunities on the EMS Strong documents, but that sponsorship doesn’t seem to flow down to the people in EMS, as far as I can tell. I really don’t know exactly what’s being sponsored, so if you do, make sure to comment and let me know, please.

Next…

… slogans need definition, not just to be there for the sake of slogans. And I don’t think it’s healthy to perpetuate that EMS is our personal lives and identities, and is all-encompassing. It’s perfectly healthy to leave it at the time clock when we punch out. It’s also perfectly healthy to want to help when we are out and about and happen upon an emergency. It is not healthy to be all EMS all the time. And maybe that mentality helps perpetuate the PTSD and high provider suicide risk. The feeling the you can’t escape. I feel too many EMS Weeks convey all work with not a lot of life and personal identity away from it. Maybe shifting that or at least helping us recognize that EMS is not all we are wouldn’t hurt.

Me? I’m a father, a Marine, a dog owner, I enjoy photography as a hobby and I’m probably amateur/semi-pro at that, and I play low brass instruments. I like to shoot firearms too. I also happened to be in EMS since 1994, working my way up from First Responder to EMT, to Intermediate, to Instructor, to Paramedic. I thoroughly enjoyed my work in EMS and my opportunity to teach and help start the ATEMSP.

This third point…

… is what I really want to emphasize, so it will be the longest…

I think this is the perfect time to acknowledge the pursuit of bettering ourselves. Beyond The Call, to me, can be an opportunity to see what happens behind the curtains of the face of EMS, the sexy, adrenaline fueled, and not so infrequently boring part of EMS, the crews running the calls. QA/QI/QC should have a day to be acknowledged. When you partner their efforts with the field provider, especially when a true Just Culture environment is implemented, you give the EMT’s and Paramedics to the the tools to mature and grow, and become even better than ever. In Just Culture, discoveries in the quality reviewing process can give us exactly that. It can also show provider agencies and oversight agencies like State authorities where the field crews aren’t being provided enough tools to be as successful as they could be.

It can be a time to highlight non-clinical support roles that “keep the wheels on the bus”, pun intended. Logistics that supply the crews with gear. Fleet maintenance that keeps the trucks in motion. Billing that strives to pay the bills that in turn pay for all the things. Admin that orchestrates the entire operation of an agency and ensures that payroll makes it to the field providers, and more.

Beyond The Call, is education… The never-ending pursuit of self-improvement. Whether than involves the pursuit of collegiate education, increasing vocational education and raising your cert level from EMT to AEMT or Paramedic, or taking CE, with the emphasis on the C being “Continuing”, not Rehashing past education. CE should also place a heavy emphasis on EBM (Evidence-Based Medicine). Make yourself better for the next call. Take an arts class. They’ve been shown to help develop critical decision making skills and to help you develop alternative strategies to situations (thinking outside the box). Take additional science classes to help you understand more about the patient and their potential disease processes and mechanisms, or their psyche, or their medications and interactions and metabolism.

This is just one man’s perspective on what EMS Week and Beyond The Call is. It seems that we are left to define the theme for ourselves, and maybe that was really the point. So. Tell me. What is it to you?

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