Make this page my home page
  1. Drag the home icon in this panel and drop it onto the "house icon" in the tool bar for the browser

  2. Select "Yes" from the popup window and you're done!

Struggling for an identity

EMS1.com News

February 22, 2011


EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Struggling for an identity

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: A recent white paper addresses the need for an EMS federal agency. Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh said it's no secret that EMS systems vary so widely. The question is, how do we achieve a consistent set of standards?

While unfortunate that the Field EMS Bill died in the lame duck Congress, it was not unexpected. It's lack of priority for our nation's congressional leaders reflects the overall lack of understanding of what EMS professionals already know — emergency medical care and transportation of the sick and injured is as much of a fundamental public safety issue as law enforcement, and fire suppression.

Since 1973, when the EMS Act failed to create a comprehensive infrastructure to operationalize, manage and improve EMS nationally, we have been struggling to find our identity as a public safety provider, health care provider, or public health provider — and in reality, we're a bit of all three, and master of none.

It's no secret that EMS systems vary widely in purpose, philosophy, and deployment structure. Sitting in my crew's quarters, I began to think about just how variable it is. Here's my quick list on how we vary:

  • Paid versus volunteer versus combination
  • Tax supported, medical reimbursement, subscription, donations, combination
  • Hospital service, county Service, fire Service, commercial, volunteer, police service, nonprofit, public utility, private-public partnerships

I'll bet that readers can come up with even more ways we vary, coast to coast, state to state, region to region, even from one town to the next.

Why is this important to note? With each variable it becomes more and more difficult to understand exactly what we do, and how we do it. With no consistency in data, we have no consistency in quality management.

Without that, how do we demonstrate our effectiveness? I mean, each one of us makes a difference, but how do we do it as a profession? How do we achieve a consistent set of standards that we set for ourselves, for education, training, pay, or level of care?

Efforts like this white paper, and the Field EMS Bill, aren't THE answer to our issues. However, they start the process that has the potential to set up the infrastructure that allows us to move forward as a unified profession during the next 30 years, in ways that it hasn't been able to in the last 30 years. Now, that would be government I would believe in.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. In the profession since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a published textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at a rural hospital-based ALS system. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
Comments
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of EMS1.com or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
No comments

Today's Top Stories

undefined, April 20, 2014
  • Boston EMS prepares for Marathon Monday

Line-Of-Duty Deaths

Submit information on fallen EMS providers in your area.

Featured Columnist

Bryan Fass

First in Fitness

These techniques can and should be done on duty, and will help you manage those aches and pains before...

    Featured Product Categories