Emergency Medical Responders

I do not believe in coincidence, at least not in the lives of believers. Today (yesterday as you read this) there was a medical emergency in my building. Obviously I can’t get specific; these things are very personal and private to the people involved. And legally protected, as they should be. But I can share some general observations that hold true in any medical emergency.

First rule for those EXPERIENCING a medical emergency: if you can communicate with the First Responders, please do so! Be specific. We need to know as exactly as possible what’s wrong. Obviously, there are some emergencies which will make it impossible for you to communicate. But if you can, fight through the pain, shove aside the embarrassment and fear and talk to us! Specific information may save your life or health.

If you don’t know what’s wrong, tell us the symptoms. “I feel terrible” is useless. These responses are better examples:

“My (head, chest, left arm) suddenly started (tingling, going numb, hurting very badly).”

“I can’t control my (arm, feet, legs).”

“I feel light-headed. Like I might pass out.”

“I have epilepsy and I think I’m about to have an episode.”

“I have a history of heart trouble and I think I’m having a heart attack now.”

If you are on medications, tell the EMT / Paramedic. He needs to know as much as you are in a condition to tell him. Such as:

“I’m on medication for (high blood pressure, diabetes, urinary tract infection). I took the last dose (yesterday, this morning, whenever).”

“I have a severe allergy to (certain antibiotics, some painkiller, being sober).”

“I’ve had corneal implants / a triple bypass / a pacemaker implanted.”

Try to think of it this way: We are your partners in this battle. Try not to be embarrassed. You’re talking to someone who trained for this very purpose: to help people in a medical crisis. If it’s humanly possible, they’re going to pull you through this, whatever it is. Now they’re here, at your side, on your team, doing everything they can for you. So work with them as much as you can.

Most security guards are trained in first aid and maybe CPR. We are likely to be the First Responders at your workplace, if your employer has security. There may be a registered nurse on site too, and she or he will be an invaluable ally. Speaking for myself, I am scared by medical emergencies. I’ve had a one-day certification course in first aid and CPR. That doesn’t make me very confident. That may be true of the guards at your site too, but trust me, it is still a lot better than “Take an aspirin and lie down.”

Although, some security guards have prior experience that makes them thoroughly competent. Today, for instance, the first supporting security officer responding to my call was a vet. He took over (long story about procedures and the reasons for them) with my blessing and handled things so smoothly and calmly that everyone relaxed a little. I asked him later if he was a paramedic (you’ll see how much of a compliment that is below) and he replied with a smile, “No, just military training.”

We see again that our veterans do not stop serving and protecting us when they leave the battlefield.

Thank you, veterans! We owe you so much!

It might be worth your while to inquire specifically what your employer is providing employees in the way of emergency medical response at work. Probably security guards with First Aid certificates is all your employer will provide, but you can get someone with medical training to go with you and ask specific questions about the training and equipment at your workplace. If you meet resistance, your insurance company or your primary care physician may be willing to apply a little “encouragement” to your employer. This can be done with a partnership attitude and produce good results.

If an incident at work seems to be serious, security guards will probably quickly be on the phone calling for more highly trained and / or better equipped personnel who can administer advanced treatment on the scene and if necessary, take you to the best treatment possible in your area. There are certain trigger words that will cause us (security guards) to make that call instantly, even without your approval. If you tell us you think you’re going to pass out, you think you’re having a heart attack, and probably if you just say your chest or arm hurts with no reason, we are going to call for the cavalry. Those guards who have had proper training, that is.

And now we come to the real professional First Responders. Work with them also as described above.

Like everyone else, I’ve heard the terms “paramedic” and “EMT” and wondered casually if there was a difference. So to begin this article, I decided I’d find out. The first site I visited explained it very clearly:

The requirements to be a paramedic are extremely rigorous, so it’s not an undertaking or a career choice to be taken lightly. A paramedic is the highest level of EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification. A paramedic is trained and certified to perform advanced life support (ALS), which includes administering IV fluids, injections, medications and performing advanced respiratory procedures. A paramedic also performs many of the same functions as a basic EMT, such as treating wounds, performing CPR, delivering babies, and performing patient assessments … Paramedics are often the lead member of a rescue team, with the most training and the most decision making power. This means that the requirements to be a paramedic include strong leadership skills and the ability to perform complex life-saving functions in extremely stressful crisis situations. A paramedic must keep a cool head and maintain authority amongst his or her team members in situations where a mistake can mean the difference between life and death.”

The word “emergency” is never code for “soft job”. That site goes on to explain that, to become a paramedic, you first have to get the lowest level of certification, EMT-B, which usually takes about 6 months to complete, and then take the state certification test. Most people then work as an EMT for about two years before going through the additional 1200 to 1800 hours of training to become a paramedic.

The educational requirements to be a paramedic are rigorous.” No kidding: some colleges have 2-year degree programs for paramedic. A student aiming for paramedic certification may find requirements such as college-level biology, math, English, classroom and clinical training at hospitals and / or with ambulance companies and fire departments, anatomy, physiology, advanced life support, advanced pediatric life support, and more.”

And then take the state paramedic test.

So if you manage all of that, what can you do with your paramedic certification? And what is required of you in those positions? Author and Paramedic Mike Rubin has some unusual replies to that question

Some real jobs advertised on the internet right now:

UNC Health Care, Raleigh, NC 27601
The EMT/Paramedic Critical Care Transport position requires the Paramedic to transfer injured or critically ill patients between hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Ability to adapt to new skills and information is essential to succeed in this role. Critical thinking skills are a must. This position is physically and intellectually demanding. It is essential that Paramedics in this capacity are comfortable with providing out-of-hospital care and willing to learn new skills to facilitate the transfer of patients.
Firefighter/EMT, Fairfax County Government, Fairfax, VA 22030
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (FRD) is a premier all-hazards fire and rescue department providing basic and advanced life support (ALS) emergency medical care, fire suppression, technical rescue, hazardous materials, water rescue, life safety education, fire prevention, and arson investigation services.
Wildland certified Paramedics and EMT’s, Wilderness Medics, Inc.
Wilderness Medics, Inc. is looking for experienced Paramedics and EMT’s to deploy to wildland fires and FEMA events. MUST have at least 1 year experience within your current scope of practice, the ability to remain calm and deliver quality care in high-pressure situations, and must have the availability to be deployed a minimum of 16 days.This is a seasonal, on-call position with fantastic pay!
EMT-Surgical, Mountain State Oral & Facial Surgery
Beckley, WV
Mountain State Oral & Facial Surgery (MSOFS) is hiring for a full-time EMTs for our Beckley location. Experience in medical and dental procedures is strongly preferred. EOE and Drug Free Workplace. Competitive salary and great benefit package!

As you probably realize, medical emergency work is extremely stressful:

Suicide rates are high in the public safety professions. Divorce rates are growing. Burnout must be addressed, as well as long hours. New solutions must be proposed and evaluated.”

Anyone familiar with stress in the military understands the significance of this statement immediately:

Paramedics as young as 19 years old work on advanced life support ambulances. Studies have shown the human brain does not fully mature until age 25. A crew on an EMS shift may run multiple calls during a single shift, where they may be responsible for pronouncing patients deceased.”

A 19-year-old provider could respond to a decapitated body on a roadway or enter a home in which an infant is dead in its crib. After making the pronouncement and breaking the news to the family, their next call may be for someone who claims to have back pain but just wants to be medicated. This is where the stress begins.”

A 2009 survey indicated more than 54% of EMS services still use 24-hour shifts, around 29% use 12-hour shifts, and only 7% report using either 8- or 10-hour shifts. Coupled with stress, shift hours can be very detrimental to workers’ mental and emotional well-being.”

According to Lt. Keith Ellis of Tennessee’s Washington County-Johnson City EMS, “… The service’s average call volume is 32,000 annually, or 10–20 calls per day per ambulance. Each call can take anywhere from 1–3 hours to clear, depending on its nature.”

I don’t have to do the math to see that this is a job custom-designed to produce nightmares, burnout, suicide, divorces, and more.

Insufficient sleep has been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic disorders, gastrointestinal conditions, hunger/appetite, and changes in emotion …” Well congratulations Sherlock. I need a study to tell me this?

The high potential for serious injury in EMS is also a stressor. In 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the overall injury rate for EMTs and paramedics was 333 injuries per 10,000 workers—more than three times higher than the average rate of 107 for all occupational groups in the U.S.”

No kidding. We’ve all seen how crazy people drive these days. If you’re in an emergency vehicle driving as fast as you dare, crazy drivers are a serious threat. And don’t forget the fun of working with needles in that moving vehicle, and being exposed to blood that may be carrying AIDS or Hepatitis C.

From World Health Organization
The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood … Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing [not eliminating] the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis…”

And this little note of joy from the same link:
Due to the fact that acute HCV [hepatitis C] infection is usually asymptomatic, few people are diagnosed during the acute phase. In those people who go on to develop chronic HCV infection, the infection is also often undiagnosed because the infection remains asymptomatic until decades after infection when symptoms develop secondary to serious liver damage.”

Back to the EMS World article :
Currently the average career span of an EMT or paramedic is only five years. This is due in part to burnout and stress and in part to the job’s physical toll.”

Where will their replacements come from? Is the snowflake generation sufficiently caring and disciplined to take on the burden of all that training? Will they burn out even sooner than five years? How about the tens of millions of illegal aliens? Are they going to step up to the plate? For Americans?

Who will answer your call in five or ten more years? As the older generation of America ages, will the culture which is emerging undertake our care? And care about us?

Pray for America’s EMTs and Paramedics. Pray like your life depends on it. Because it very well may.

Thank God for all who answer a special call to serve and rescue. God bless our Troops and Veterans and all our First responders. Have a blessed and Safe RED Friday!

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