This week we are honoring the Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Who are they? What do they do? EMS are a type of emergency service dedicated to providing out-of-hospital acute medical care and/or transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient, or the medical practitioner, believes constitutes a medical emergency. The term emergency medical service evolved to reflect a change from a simple system of ambulances providing only transportation, to a system in which actual medical care is given on scene and during transport. In some jurisdictions, EMS units may handle technical rescue operations such as extrication, water rescue, and search and rescue.
Documentation of the first EMS is found in the Bible with the story of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:34 (NIV) - "He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him." The first known hospital-based ambulance service operated out of Commercial Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio (now the Cincinnati General) by 1865. This was soon followed by other services, notably the New York service provided out of Bellevue Hospital which started in 1869 with ambulances carrying medical equipment, such as splints, a stomach pump, morphine, and brandy, reflecting contemporary medicine.
Emergency medical services exists to fulfill the basic principles of first aid, which are to Preserve Life, Prevent Further Injury, and Promote Recovery.
This common theme in medicine is demonstrated by the "star of life". The Star of Life , where each of the 'arms' to the star represent one of the 6 points. These 6 points are used to represent the six stages of high quality pre-hospital care, which are:
- Early detection - Members of the public, or another agency, find the incident and understand the problem
- Early response- The first professional (EMS) rescuers arrive on scene as quickly as possible, enabling care to begin
- Early reporting- The first persons on scene make a call to the emergency medical services and provide details to enable a response to be mounted
- Good on-scene care - The emergency medical service provides appropriate and timely interventions to treat the patient at the scene of the incident
- Care in transit- the emergency medical service load the patient in to suitable transport and continue to provide appropriate medical care throughout the journey
- Transfer to definitive care - the patient is handed over to an appropriate care setting, such as the emergency department at a hospital, in to the care of physicians
- First Responder
- Ambulance Driver
- Ambulance Care Assistant
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Emergency Medical Dispatcher
- Critical Care Paramedic
EMS does more than just provide a taxi service to and from the hospital. They are usually the first responder to an accident or any emergency situation. They assess the situation, provide initial care to stabilize the injured or ill person and perform life saving techniques while transporting to a medical facility. I had several occasions in which I relied on the EMS here to transport my husband to the hospital. This was not an easy task. He weighed around 220 pounds, dead weight. It took 2 EMTs and me to transfer him to a stretcher, then they had to maneuver their way out of the house, which was also complicated considering the turns they had to make. Once they got him into the ambulance they would initiate oxygen and start an I.V. for fluids before racing him to the hospital. Not only did I call them during emergency situations, but also on special occasions when he wanted to get out of the bed for holiday celebrations. They would help me transfer him to his wheelchair, then return to put him back in the bed. Not only did they not charge for this service, but they did it willingly and cheerfully.
Being a part of the EMS team is not an easy job. They work 12 to 24 hour shifts, all kinds of weather, and any time of the day or night. The conditions in which they find their victims is not always the best. And on top of that they are in charge of doing all they can to save lives while also dealing with confused, upset or irrational people. They all deserve our respect and gratitude for the hard work they do. So as we honor them this week, reach out to them, give a pat on the back, and let them know how vital they are to your community and how much they are appreciated.