The best things to happen in EMS in 2022
"It’s not that kindness and altruism in our profession – and the world in general – is becoming rarer, it’s that it happens so often that it’s not news"
Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
A deadly plague sweeps the planet, killing untold millions of people and infecting many more. In its wake, society devolves into opposite camps, viciously attacking the other and searching for any opportunity to get one over on the other side. People lose trust in the government, representative democracy effectively dies, and entire cities become ghost towns, or at least the restaurant and entertainment districts do.
The plague morphs into different varieties and flavors, prolonging the drama. Throughout the country, there are little pockets of normalcy, but eventually, fatigue over the ongoing pandemic causes the national interest to wane, and people begin to care less about the dying and the infected than just getting on with their lives. Eventually, the whole thing ends with a whimper.
What, you thought I was talking the COVID-19 pandemic? No, I was talking about the final season of “The Walking Dead.” The final episode of the series aired on November 20, 2022, but just like COVID-19, we haven’t seen the last of it. With the television series, we still have the spinoffs, and the real pandemic has now become part of the seasonal flora and will be around for the foreseeable future.
There are plenty of dark things to remember about the last few years in EMS, but moving forward, I’m going to focus on the positives. As I said in another column once, happiness is a choice; you just have to place more worth on the things that bring you joy.
So, without further ado, I give you the top 5 uplifting and positive EMS news stories of 2022.
5. Message of compassion towards patients goes viral
Advanced Care Paramedic and RN Matthew Harris snapped a photo of a sign posted in an Ontario ED resuscitation room that he found particularly moving. His social media post of the photo went viral, as over 8,500 other providers found the message inspiring.
The message on the hospital resuscitation room wall: “I want to pause and recognize that this person had a life and dreams. I want to recognize the people in this room who tried their best to help this person today."
Saw this hanging in the resus room last night.— Matthew Harris, ACP, RN (@MedicMatt17512) December 3, 2022
I really like the way it’s worded and I think I’ll use this wording going forward. pic.twitter.com/rGqbqdMuzx
We need to make this message go from merely viral to endemic. The emotional risk we run in modern EMS and emergency medicine is to one day look in the mirror and not recognize the person you see, and wonder where your humanity has gone. The risk of moral injury is very real, and we all need to take a step back now and again to remember what our greater purpose is: to ease the suffering of the sick and injured, to make a bad day a little better somehow.
We see people at their very worst, on some of the worst days of their lives, and yet they invite us into their homes and tell us things they won’t even share with their priest, all with the expectation that we will make it better somehow.
Sometimes, we forget what an honor and a privilege that is, but we shouldn’t.
4. Wages and compensation continue to trend upward
Nobody got into EMS for the sweet paycheck, but at the same time, no EMT should be forced to work multiple jobs and spend more time at work than with their families just to be able to pay their bills. Pay has been an issue as long as I’ve been in EMS, and many public leaders still show their disdain for EMS in the insulting pay raises they offer.
Still, there are rays of hope. Forward-thinking EMS systems are recognizing that they need to improve pay and other compensation to retain quality personnel, and the trend is growing. Wake County, North Carolina implemented significant pay raises for its EMS providers back in March, and a couple of months later, adjacent Johnson County increased its EMS compensation 42% to keep pace. Austin-Travis County EMS, after a woefully insulting pay rise offer of 14 cents back in April, managed to cough up a 11.2-12.5% raise for its EMTs and paramedics in September.
This is the market at work, folks.
Private EMS providers still lag behind, but if ET3 proves to be the viable funding model that many think it will, a very finite revenue pool will become significantly deeper, allowing better pay. Until then, those privates will have to seek innovative solutions and revenue streams to increase compensation for their employees or continue to see their best people poached by better-paying competitors.
And that’s the way it should be.
3. A blow was struck for strong educational standards
On June 17, 2022, The National Registry of EMTs released Draft Resolution 22-13 that would allow state-level accreditation of paramedic education programs. Since 2013, NREMT required all paramedic education programs to be accredited by CoAEMSP.
No doubt, NREMT intended the resolution to widen the provider training pipeline and to address what many perceived to be onerous CoAEMSP accreditation requirements and an unwillingness of the organization to respond to stakeholder concerns.
The response was overwhelmingly negative, and NREMT withdrew the resolution. CoAEMSP isn’t perfect and improvement is needed, but it’s light years better than what we had before, and a great majority of EMS stakeholders recognized that.
2. Support and focus grows for provider mental health
The HERO Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives again in 2022 and again is before the U.S. Senate. For the past several years, EMS provider mental health has become a cause célèbre among EMS stakeholders, and increasingly, we’re getting national attention.
The next thing we need to do is lean hard on our Senators to pass it.
1. Simple acts of kindness and quiet heroism continue every single day
I was reminded of this by EMS1 Editor Kerri Hatt when I lamented, “Jeez, 2022 was depressing. Do you know how difficult it is to find positive EMS stories in our news feed?”
Her reply was, “They’re in there! Keep looking!”
She’s right. From dispatchers delivering babies to EMS and firefighters donating clothing and medical supplies to Ukraine, even ambulances and fire apparatus, to cardiac arrest saves and firefighters finishing mowing the lawn of the elderly man they transported to the hospital, simple acts of kindness are commonplace.
It spurred me to ask myself, why are the bad stories reported so much more often? Is there more bad than good to report about EMS? When the answer struck me, it prompted a smile and a perfect way to end this column.
They’re reported less often because they simply aren’t newsworthy anymore.
It’s not that kindness and altruism in our profession – and the world in general – is becoming rarer, it’s that it happens so often that it’s not news. “EMT buys shoes for homeless man” or “Firefighters shovel walkway for elderly couple” or “EMS crew distributes gifts to underprivileged kids for Christmas” happens so damned often that the alternate headline could be, “Water is wet, and the sky is blue.”
Happy holidays, everybody.