Times They Are a'Changing
One thing this pandemic has proven is both how vital a HEALTHY EMS system is to the welfare of our communities and how much the caregivers need our support, recognition, and compensation. Ambulance crews at all levels, private agencies, fire-based ambulance services, and volunteer companies have made the necessary move from being more than just pre-hospital caregivers mainly responsible for transport to out-of-hospital caregivers responsible for actual care. EMTs and paramedics need to be able to communicate dynamically with different people, for different needs, for different patients, each and every call.
The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a “disrupter accelerator”. Suddenly our EMS providers were thrown into a different reality where decisions had to be made in the field regarding assessment and transport, healthcare at all levels was thrown into high-stress situations with little chance to recoup, emotions were tamped down as patient families said goodbyes to their loved ones knowing it might be the last time, and creative ways of communication were explored. Being suddenly thrown into this “New Normal” in health care emphasized the areas were improvement is needed as well as the adaptability of our healthcare professionals.
A five-year study resulted in The 2020 EMS Trend Report. The report, which was produced in collaboration with Fitch & Associates and the National EMS Management Association, and sponsored by Pulsara, covers a variety of topics including retention, medical director involvement and EMS pay and benefits. This study was completed in 2019 and before we were thrown so unexpectedly, and not so ready, into a pandemic of monstrous proportions. The biggest issues revealed were retention, safety, maintaining skills, low compensation, low recognition, and engagement with medical directors and management.
Just a few years ago many seasoned EMTs and Paramedics actually recommended EMS as a career path for their children whereas now that number has dropped from approximately 81% to 61% in optimism about the career potential. When the Covid was declared a national emergency, everyone praised healthcare workers and most of what we saw as representative of that field were nurses and doctors leaving many feeling unappreciated. In addition to the potential illness exposure risk, physical assaults on EMS personnel have risen in the past and the current air of community riots and violence have put more providers into dangerous situations.
Another issue that the study highlighted were the amount of managers versus leaders versus people in the field. A leader is defined as a supervisory role with field experience so that responders and leaders can actually relate and understand the realities of the job. A manager might be very good at what he/she does with books, forms and “sitting in a corner office” but does not necessarily have on-the-street experience. When an inexperienced manager makes a policy they may not have any realistic view as to how this policy can actually be implemented. A field supervisor can lead because he/she can understand many of the challenges the providers may face.