100+ EMS providers honored by Mass. city officials for 'thankless job'
“The events of the last year has made us all realize just how valuable EMS providers are and how we are truly people that care and are there in that time of need” the Northeast regional director of AMR said
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — It wasn’t an unusual call for paramedic Rejeanne Boissonneault, but life-threatening nevertheless.
A man at a homeless shelter on Worthington Street in Springfield had gone into cardiac arrest after overdosing on heroin in a public area. Thankfully, Boissonneault and her colleagues were able to rush to his aid.
In the middle of the facility, in front of most of the residents there, the paramedics were able to resuscitate the man, bring his pulse back at the scene and take him to the hospital moments later, saving his life.
For Boissonneault, it’s just part of the job of being a paramedic, a line of work that’s currently being honored as part of the 46th annual National EMS Week.
“It is a thankless job, but when you have weeks where there’s recognition for EMS, I think it’s a great way for people who may have not been having a good run of things to know there’s support,” she said.
Boissonneault, has worked at American Medical Response in Massachusetts for nine years and now serves as an operations supervisor. She was one of 100-plus AMR paramedics and EMS professionals honored Tuesday morning in Springfield’s Symphony Hall for the high-caliber care they provide and their dedicated service to their communities.
More than 100 awards were presented to the dozens of paramedics and EMS workers as they sat in the seats of Symphony Hall mask-clad and uniformed. Some, like Boissonneault, were recognized for their clinical excellence in saving the lives of patients, while others were credited with helping bring new life into the world.
The group of emergency medical personnel sitting in the Springfield concert hall Tuesday helped deliver a collective 14 babies in the past two years, AMR noted.
“The events of the last year has made us all realize just how valuable EMS providers are and how we are truly people that care and are there in that time of need,” Patrick Pickering, the Northeast regional director of AMR, told the audience of paramedics and EMS personnel Tuesday.
The importance of Boissonneault’s profession has only been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. Over the course of the public health crisis, she and her colleagues were sent from Western Massachusetts to New York City to help respond to medical emergencies and to Boston to assist at mass COVID-19 testing sites.
Pickering explained how the pandemic has taken a toll on the lives of so many paramedics and EMS workers, who have had to not only care for the most vulnerable residents in the communities they serve, but also be careful to not put their loved ones at risk while serving on the frontlines of the global public health crisis.
“The last year for us has absolutely been the biggest challenge, not just professionally, but personally as well,” he said. “In addition to providing care for the folks of Baystate Health and the city of Springfield, our EMTs and paramedics are faced with taking care of their families and making sure that they didn’t bring home any infections to their families. So, that added stress and their commitment to their profession is a testament to them.”
In honor of National EMS Week, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Fire Commissioner BJ Calvi and Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood joined AMR, the city and Baystate Health’s primary ambulance provider, at Symphony Hall to recognize the often unnoticed work of emergency medical workers.
AMR also took time to recognize its newest class of paramedics and graduates of the award-winning “Earn While You Learn“ program, which is designed to ease the transition for those wanting to become EMS professionals.
As part of the initiative, 30 participants are hired as full-time employees while attending AMR’s basic certification course. They’re later promoted and given a pay increase after successfully completing the program and getting their state certification.
This year’s graduates of the NCTI paramedic training program in Springfield worked roughly 10,000 hours collectively, responding to medical emergencies, delivering babies and learning the ropes of the profession. They worked across the Pioneer Valley, in Amherst, Holyoke, Longmeadow and elsewhere.
“You pretty much can’t throw a rock in Western Massachusetts and not hit an NCTI student,” said Emily Chandler, AMR NCTI program director.
Those who were honored Tuesday walked on stage against the backdrop of a gigantic United States flag to shake hands with their colleagues as well as Sarno, Calvi and Clapprood, all of whom spoke at the event and thanked the emergency medical workers for their service to the city.
“Sometimes, we don’t take the time to step back and say a heartfelt thank you,” Sarno said. “EMS individuals, God bless you. I don’t envy what you do, but I respect what you do. You see people at their worst times. Many are very appreciative of that. Some are not, even though you’re helping them out, and you have to put in that professionalism, that compassion, grin and smile and make them feel good.”
The common thread of three city officials’ addresses to the more than 100 paramedics and EMS professionals was that their profession is thankless, yet crucial nevertheless.
“EMS is often the forgotten leg of the public safety triangle. Fire, police, EMS, we all work together in the field, providing services to the citizens of our communities, and it’s important to recognize EMS for the hard, dedicated work they do every day, taking care of individuals in all sorts of diverse situations,” Calvi said.