21 Steps To The 21st Century: Preparing Fire Service EMS For The Future

The year 2000 is rapidly approaching and demands on fire service EMS personnel have never been greater. How will you, as an EMS professional, face tomorrow? Eric W. Heckerson outlines 21 critical steps each emergency medical services professional needs...

As the turn of the century draws ever closer, those in the fire service EMS continue to wonder what the future may hold for pre-hospital care. As an integral component of the nation's ever-changing health care system, EMS professionals will most certainly feel the effects of managed care and the...

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No matter what the issue, if you are considering starting a new program or revising an old one, find out what other agencies know about the subject. Sometimes neighboring agencies, large and small, can be incredible resources. Use the Internet, government agencies and networking with other EMS professionals from around the country to get as much information and perspectives as possible. And, one of the largest clearinghouses of fire and EMS references is the learning resource center at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD.

Use Resources Wisely

7. Collaborate with medical control.

If a fire department is called to the scene of a working fire, the experts in the field are the firefighters there to handle any exposures or dangers that may arise. Conversely, if EMT/paramedics are called to the scene of a medical complaint, the experts remain the most highly trained medical professionals - physicians.

Whether licensed or certified, pre-hospital providers are linked as partners with emergency physicians who fill the role of medical control. Medical directors are helpful and essential members of the EMS team. The most successful EMS systems are those that collaborate and work cooperatively with medical direction.

8. Get involved in the legislative process at the local, state and national levels.

There are thousands of EMS providers in the nation. Collectively, this can be a significant and powerful political influence. Public safety professionals are, for the most part, well respected and listened to by legislators. The challenge is to offer a consistent, persistent message until it gets across and action is accomplished.

Know What's New

9. Initiate innovative methods of education and continuing education.

These days, it may take more than black-and-white overheads to keep the attention of a class. Utilize the tools of technology and incorporate them into continuing education. In addition, remember that variety is the spice of life - and education. Powerpoint presentations, CD-ROM interactive software, Web sites, and computer-generated simulation are only a few of the resources available.

10. Institute continuous quality improvement (CQI) programs.

Most have heard of the concept of quality assurance (QA). For years, QA has been performed on patient care, report writing and other field issues. In recent years, a better, more effective method has become popular.

Continuous quality improvement takes QA a step further and seeks not only to identify a problem, but to make appropriate changes to the system in order to correct the problem. It seeks to identify the root cause of a problem or situation and aims at preventing it from occurring in the future.

11. Subscribe to fire/EMS/ health care trade journals.

12. Attend fire/EMS/health care conferences and seminars.

So many factors and aspects of EMS are constantly changing that it can be difficult to keep up with what is going on in the world. One way to give it a good try is to subscribe to trade journals. And, when they come in the mail, do not let them sit on the counter - pick them up and read them!

Another way to keep up on what is happening in EMS is to attend the various conferences and seminars that are held throughout the country.

Educate The Public

13. Preserve the 911 system.

14. Promote and market services delivered.

15. Teach the public what EMS stands for.

There are not many things that society can count on with any degree of reliability. Public safety and the 911 system are two resources that communities have come to rely upon thousands of times per day. Strong effort must be made to keep the 911 system working effectively.

The importance of 911, EMS, health promotion and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training should be emphasized. The benefits to having a functioning EMS system should be promoted and marketed to the community. Teach them not only what the letters stand for, but what it is that they mean.

Empower People

16. Empower members to do their jobs.

As change continues to overwhelm the workforce, innovative ways of delivering service will become necessary. To do this, the two main ingredients of empowerment, responsibility and trust, must be given to the front-line workers. No one will have a better idea of how things should be done than those who are doing the job. Supervisors should give responsibility to employees and trust them to do the job. An empowering manager will then stand back and serve as a resource, supporter, and source of encouragement.

17. Tear down the wall be-tween paid and volunteer.