EMS Week 2020

The theme for EMS Week 2020 is ‘Ready Today, Preparing for Tomorrow’. While this was selected months before COVID-19 overtook our lives and profession, it is fitting and telling of the future for EMS.  EMS has always been ready, ready to face new challenges, a dynamic workforce, and an ever-changing healthcare landscape. Our gusto is unwavering, however, as a profession, our planning for tomorrow is struggling. Rural services are razor-thin, reimbursement has declined and municipal agencies are belt-tightening. COVID-19 has exposed our healthcare system on the verge of cardiovascular collapse. EMS is the lynchpin, and many Americans are becoming acutely aware of our fragile system.EMS Self-Paced Courses

This may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but COVID-19 will the catalyst for change, at great expense. We have lost Paramedics, Nurses, and Physicians to this disease, and undoubtedly more to follow. Keeping their spirit, gusto, and sacrifice in mind, we have the opportunity to shape and truly plan for tomorrow. We have also seen triumph, take Christell Cadet, FDNY Paramedic, and COVID-19 survivor.  After weeks vented and on ECMO she is on her way to (hopefully) a full recovery. This gives me hope for our profession and for the medical community at large. How do we plan for tomorrow? EMS needs a transplant of core values and principles.

Planning for Tomorrow

Education, response, and evidence-based practice need to be redefined and accepted, by the industry, another tall order, without this our system will collapse. How we educate EMT’s needs to change along with the responsibilities and compensation. Simulation-based learning, increased “ride-time” hours and corresponding basic science courses should be required. This provides ownership by students and sets a path in medicine. The emergency response is overdue for regearing. This means a cost-effective approach in responding to emergencies, which are >70% EMS related. Deploying lightweight vehicles and shift training to focus on calls agencies respond to frequently, two effective strategies. Finally, we should be following guidelines and evidence-based practice. This means conducting our own research, treating a patient when appropriate, utilizing Nurse Practitioners, improve mental health field treatment, and not transporting on each call. On the other side of COVID-19 is Health 3.0 and the opportunity to increase health, improve outcomes, while decreasing costs. Before we get there we will need persistence in the coming months.

Just before my aunt passed away this past Thanksgiving, we had a conversation about being persistent. She was married twice before a second and long divorce altered her path. All occurring while she battled hearing loss from her employment in radio. She reinvented herself, learned and excelled at screenwriting, had plays produced, traveled, had a cochlear implant, and married Capt John. She was persistent and tactical in her daily life, beating back stage IV lung cancer for five years. As we sat on the edge of her bed she reminded me of all I have accomplished, by being persistent. I was quick to point out this must run in the family, something she appreciated, thinking of her self reinvention. Persistency will be mission-critical for us to emerge from COVID-19 and tackle Health 3.0. We will have scars and wounds that will not heal and we will lose members of our healthcare family. We will also have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to rebuild EMS and healthcare that serves everyone. We can prepare for tomorrow easily when we have placed the proper infrastructure to support EMS into the future.

I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy EMS week. Keep an eye on each other, many of us are experiencing incredible stress in addition to daily responsibilities. Take time to do one thing a day just for yourself. This will help you be ready for today, prepare for tomorrow, and stay EMS Strong.

Dr. Jake Weinstein DNP ACNP Paramedic