We’re going to do a little thought exercise here, Folks.
If you’re in a place where you’re around people, pick out five people at random. If not, think of five friends or family members. Look at their faces and get a good mental picture of them as the people you know or can assume them to be. Take a minute or two, I’ll wait.
Now assign one of the following emergency medical conditions to them. One of them should have a seizure, one of them should have a stroke, one should have a heart attack, one should get into a car accident, and one should stop breathing. Remember, this is a thought exercise, so don’t actually do anything to harm anyone. Just imagine that these things have happened to the people you know and care about. Pretend they happen to them right in front of you.
Really, do it.
Scary, isn’t it? It’s terrifying really, if you stop to think about it. I can imagine you’re thinking that this is overly dramatic and maybe even a little silly. Perhaps you’re wondering why I would ask you to think about terrible things happening to people that you know and or love. Why would I make you do such a thing? It’s awful, isn’t it?
Yeah, it is. Just trust me on this; it’s necessary for this one.
Now think of exactly what you would do in each and every one of the above situations. Think of the very next people you would want to see. Chances are you know exactly what you would do and who you would want to see. You’d call 911 and hope that the ambulance would show up to take care of the situation. You’d pray that they got their quickly and then you’d pray that they knew what they were doing and were good at doing it. You’d pray for your loved one and you’d be scared. You’d want them to get better and you’d want the people in the ambulance that came to help them to make them get better. I can guarantee that this would be an intense experience that you would remember clearly for a very long time. It would probably be a life-changing event for you… and maybe for them as well.
As a paramedic, I cover a 911 response territory that contains anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000 souls. It’s not the biggest jurisdiction out there, nor is it the smallest, but it generates enough calls to keep me busy. My service responds to around 3000 requests for ambulance service every year and the number keeps rising. Every one of these calls for help come from people that somebody, somewhere cares about. Every one of these people is a friend and family member to someone in and around our community and every one of them are important. Every one of these people instinctively knows exactly who they will call and come to depend upon when the unthinkable happens to their loved ones or to someone around them. They’ll call me or one of my coworkers and just like you in the thought exercise above, they’ll pray that the same things happen for them. They’ll want us to come right away, they’ll want us to be exceptionally good at what we do, and they’ll want us to make them or the person they called for be better. They’ll want our service right then and there and they’ll demand these things of us at that time. They’ll think nothing of the system that’s in place to come to help them, they’ll just demand that it be there and that it be excellent.
Luckily for the people in my jurisdiction, I work with some exceptional individuals. I take pride in the Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians who I work with at my ambulance service. I know that each and every one of them is a competent, caring professional who is very much up to the task of caring for our community. I know that they all take their high level of responsibility very seriously and I know that every time they roll out they will do a fantastic job. I know their strengths and their weaknesses. I know how they’ll react to most situations and I know the tools they’ll use to do it. I know the system intimately, its strengths and weaknesses and where it could use improvement. I know where we need to strengthen our service level and where we could stand to apply more resources. I know this because I’m involved in the system, and also because I care about it. I do my part both as a citizen and as an EMS professional to ensure that my community’s EMS system is in-shape and second to none.
I care about EMS before I need it.
Today is Wednesday, May 18, 2011 and we’re smack-dab in the middle of EMS week 2011. EMS Week is a week where EMS people are generally ignored a little less than we usually are during the other 51 weeks of the year. Sometimes we get little trinkets from our employers and sometimes we get free food from the hospitals we transport patients to. It’s nice. Unfortunately, it’s mostly EMS people who celebrate it, and we generally do a poor job of getting the word out.
There’s a product I use called the WANTYNU oxygen wrench that an EMS person designs and sells, and no, this isn’t a paid ad for the product. However, I have always loved the name. It’s an acronym that stands for “We Ain’t Nothing Till You Need Us” which is unfortunately is how a lot of EMS people think the public sees them. I’ll admit that there are days where I feel the same way. I try to remain positive about our public image but I see examples of the public not knowing, nor caring about what we do until the moment they need us. I can only imagine what we could accomplish if the public would care about their EMS service all 52 weeks of the year. Maybe all of our problems would disappear if the public cared about how much they supported us. Maybe we could finally give them the true level of service they deserve if we had the resources to give it.
Happy EMS Week. For some things that I’ve written in past years, check out the links below.
http://lifeunderthelights.com/2010/09/1242/ – What difference does EMS make?
http://lifeunderthelights.com/2010/05/ems-week-2010-sent-to-the-newspaper/ – A letter to the editor that you can send to your local paper.