Trending Topics

5 things we learned in EMS in 2012

From MCI responses to responder safety, here’s the things that caught my eye this year

It’s routine for us columnists to be looking back on the past 12 months during this time of the year. Despite the fact that the world didn’t end as predicted on December 21, there were still some fairly significant developments that occurred in EMS during 2012. Here are five lessons from 2012 — feel free to add yours to the comments below!

1. We must perform when called upon
EMS has had to respond to major events like Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook shootings. In between, we ran a few million calls nationwide.

For each and every run, the public expects us to be at our best. They assume that we are prepared and equipped to create control out of chaos. Overwhelmingly we do. Sometimes we don’t. When we don’t, we are held accountable.

2. No one is beyond reproach
Large departments like DCFD, Detroit and FDNY have been criticized by the media for their service quality. Tulsa saw their leadership sacked by allegations of poor fiscal management.

Smaller departments have been besieged by charges of embezzlement and fraud. Just because you’re one of the “good guys” doesn’t mean you can take advantage of the reputation.

3. EMS is a hazardous profession
While air medical helicopter crashes decreased significantly in 2012, ambulance crashes appear to have increased, with a larger number of fatalities to both responders and the lay public.

With more and more attention being paid to response time issues and the lack of benefit surrounding its use, several departments have started to curtail the use of emergency driving in most circumstances.

Similarly it looks like the medical product industry is also rethinking the design of its products. Ambulance design is likely to change within the next two to three years, to better protect occupants. Lifting tools may help reduce the rate of injuries. Alternative methods to medication delivery may reduce the chance of needlesticks. To be sure though, all of what we do are “people powered.” Meaning that if there is a way to screw something up, we’ll figure out how to do it.

4. EMS continues to evolve
It seems that there is an increasing awareness about how we could adapt our traditional service model to one that is more primary-care focused.

Community paramedicine is becoming a common buzzword in our industry. More departments are integrating themselves into the existing heath care system, providing followup care and reducing costs. This is an exciting development and one to pay close attention to. We must evolve, or risk being marginalized as a “you call, we haul, that’s all” type of affair.

5. Finally, despite the occasional squabbles and in-fighting, EMS is still a small family
We identify with each other, regardless of which uniform we wear, whether we’re paid, or what level of certification we are. When one of us dies, or is critically injured, or affected in our personal lives by the disasters we respond to, others reach out to provide a helping hand, a loving hug, and otherwise give help. After all, we are the consummate helpers.

On that note, here are our hopes for you and your loved ones that 2013 brings as much or more joy as 2012. As always, participate in the discussions, and let us know how we’re doing from time to time.

We enjoy hearing from you — you are the reason why we comb for EMS news, provide timely commentaries, and deliver the latest product information and education in field care. 2013 will bring even more information to you, and we hope that you continue to enjoy it.

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor 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 textbook writer, author of “EMT Exam for Dummies,” has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.