5/17/2018 2:42:00 PM EMS Week a chance to raise awareness of local services
May 20-26 is National EMS week. When things go wrong in the dark of night or on a bright sunshiny day, emergency medical service personnel are just a phone call away and ready to help with your emergency. (Daily News archives)
May 20-26 is the 44th annual National EMS Week, and United Life Care Ambulance Service wants to recognize its EMS professionals and raise the community's awareness of how they serve.
The ambulance service is celebrating with a special Children's day Thursday, May 24, from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Commercium, 301 S. Cross, Robinson. All residents of Crawford County can come tour ambulances, talk with EMTs and paramedics and participate in live CPR demonstrations and other first-aid techniques.
In 1974, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS Week to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do in the nation's communities. EMS Week brings together local communities and medical personnel to honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine's "front line."
Administrative Assistant Jennifer Hargrave - who, along with her husband, Andrew Hargrave, are part-owners of United Life Care Ambulance Service - is organizing this year's celebration.
Hargrave explained there are two levels of emergency medical technician, a basic EMT and a paramedic. An EMT assists the paramedic in patient care. It involves the equivalent of one semester training and education. Paramedic certification requires a year and half to two years of training and education. The education and training is similar to that of a nursing student.
Unlike a nurse, who has the benefit of doctors and a hospital, paramedics often have to make decisions on their own.
Hargrave explained that one of the biggest differences between a nurse and paramedic is where the patient is treated, and decisions and steps required for the patient's treatment. "In the field a paramedic has to make a judgement call," Hargrave said.
Modern communication does help in providing access to doctors to make those "judgement call" medical decisions, but not always, and the doctor is not there with the patient.
Pay scales for a paramedic can vary from $16 to $20 an hour, with personnel working 12-hour shifts, or 24-hour shifts of 12 on duty and 12 on call.
Many counties are having trouble maintaining personnel required to provide full-time ambulance service. Hargrave said they are not seeing as many young people coming into EMS services.
The Illinois Eastern Community College system does not currently provide an EMT/paramedic program. Those interested have to go to Ivy Tech in Terre Haute, Vincennes University, Lake Land College or Rend Lake College to receive training.
Most firemen or police officers are considered first responders and have a basic knowledge of first aid. They can perform CPR, attach a AED and oxygen, explained Andrew Hargrave, who is a paramedic and also a volunteer firefighter. One of the challenges for trained medical personnel like himself is the "legal" aspect of the level of help they can provide in an emergency. "As a fireman, I can't provide a higher level of care until the ambulance arrives," Andrew Hargrave said.
To become and an EMT or paramedic you need to be 18 and have a high-school or equivalent diploma.
State law requires counties or communities to provide an ambulance service. Tax money is raised to support that service.
Emergency medical services are much different than the old days of fire, police or funeral home personnel simply grabbing up the patient and getting them to the hospital as quickly as possible. Ambulances are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and a variety of medications for any number of emergency situations.
Hargrave said they use the money they receive from the county to replace and upgrade equipment. Most recently they have had to replace three ambulances and equipped them with new 12-lead cardiac monitors.
Other costs are covered under insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
A current challenge is what services insurance, Medicare and Medicaid are willing to pay for. Hargrave explained that transport to a scheduled doctor's appointment may not be covered, and some patients cannot make it to an appointment on their own. They need more assistance than public transportation or a private vehicle can provide, but maybe not full ambulance transport.
Hargrave said they have looked into mid-level medical transport such as a wheelchair lift van, but those have to be state-inspected, staffed and meet certain requirements almost as much as a full ambulance. It is not cost-effective.
EMTs and paramedics in a small community face a number of challenges. "You don't know what you will walk into," said Hargrave.
In addition to the physical and mental aspects of the job, you also know that every call could be for a friend, family member or at the least someone you know. "It takes a special type of person," she said.
Similar to and emergency room nurse, the long hours are physically demanding. "You see people at their worst, but you also know that you are there to help," Hargrave said. "We get a lot of 'thank yous.'"
Hargrave wants the community to come out and see what they do, and the services they provide to the community. Individuals interested in becoming and EMT or Paramedic and can also stop by the office for more information.