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Professionalizing our passion

Editor's note: In N.J., volunteers are fighting legislation that would require two EMTs to staff an ambulance operated by a support first aid, rescue, or ambulance squad. Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh says he doesn't see a problem. "Having two EMTs on scene to compare notes and bounce ideas off each other would seem prudent," he says. What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.

As an EMS professional, I have a few concerns about the issues involved in this article.

On one hand, I certainly understand the need expressed by the EMS response agencies to recruit and retain volunteers. In areas where it might be financially difficult to retain a paid service, it might be the only viable option. The citizenry and their legislators are certainly informed about that part.

On the other hand, it seems relatively apparent to me that achieving EMT staff aboard the ambulances is a good thing. The national EMS scope of practice recommends that the EMT is the minimum level of staffing on a transport unit. While it's true that one of them would be driving the ambulance, the additional training would be helpful on the scene of the medical emergency.

Having two EMT personnel on scene to compare notes and bounce ideas off each other would seem prudent, along with documentation practices, radio communications, driving, and so on. In summary, there is greater flexibility in the deployment and operation of that unit. I haven't mentioned the potential usefulness of having multiple numbers of EMTs at the scene of a multi casualty event or disaster.

And, in other parts of the country, many if not most volunteers train their personnel to the level of EMT. What is unique about the New Jersey system? What prevents a service that helps to cover a standing population of 89,000 to recruit passionate, caring and smart volunteers to receive 150 hours of essential training and serve their community?

There may be a good reason, but I am having trouble seeing it. In the early days of our industry, a rationale to keep drivers on a transport unit may have had merit, but that was a long time ago. Staffing two EMTs on ambulances seems like a simple step forward in professionalizing our passion.

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