The current and future state of EMS: A sneak preview of the 2019 EMS Trend Report

Building and maintaining a qualified workforce remain the top concerns of EMS leaders and clinicians in 2019


This article originally appeared in the June 6, 2019, issue of the Paramedic Chief Leadership Briefing, EMS Trend Report findings | Medical error barriers | Surviving a head injury. Read the full briefing and add the Paramedic Chief eNewsletter to your subscriptions.

By Roxanne Shanks, MBA

Ever wonder how your agency stacks up against others across the country? Or whether EMS clinicians and leaders in other organizations feel the same way you do about the future of the profession?

Most of us have at least a few colleagues who help us keep things in perspective; people we can bounce ideas off of to make sure we’re not crazy. Thanks to the Fitch/EMS1 EMS Trend Report and the Pinnacle EMS Leadership Forum, we can now see how our ideas compare to those of thousands of fellow EMS professionals.

This year, nearly 3,000 people completed the 2019 EMS Trend Report survey. While we’re still going through the answers to more than 30 questions, here’s a sneak peek at what we’re finding so far. (Photo/USAF)
This year, nearly 3,000 people completed the 2019 EMS Trend Report survey. While we’re still going through the answers to more than 30 questions, here’s a sneak peek at what we’re finding so far. (Photo/USAF)

This year, nearly 3,000 people completed the survey. While we’re still going through the answers to more than 30 questions, here’s a sneak peek at what we’re finding so far.

Recruitment and retention remain the top concerns of field providers and chiefs. As in the 2018 EMS Trend Report, these two answers blew away the other choices, regardless of what type of agency respondents work for or role they hold in the organization. We also asked whether people planned to leave their current employers and found that nearly a quarter of those in the first five years of their careers had no intention of staying in their jobs for very long.

A divide remains between EMS clinicians in the field and the leaders of their organizations over how they’re addressing safety and health issues. In the 2018 EMS Trend Report, field providers were much less confident than their chiefs and directors that their agencies were appropriately addressing patient safety, caregiver mental health and related issues. In 2019, that divide continues.

The role of the medical director is one of the most critical for an EMS agency that hopes to integrate with the healthcare system, provide evidence-based care and move the profession forward clinically. This year’s EMS Trend Report survey included responses from more medical directors than ever, giving us new insight into their views of where EMS is headed. Most strikingly, four out of five medical directors who responded said they were hopeful about the future of EMS, a significantly higher percentage than field providers or agency leaders.

The adoption of certain clinical innovations appears to have plateaued, a sign that not all agencies are rushing to use the latest technology or tools if they haven’t been proven to make a difference. This year, 4.7% reported using ultrasound in the field, for example – only a slight bump over last year’s 4% and the 3.2% who reported using it in the inaugural EMS Trend Report in 2016. Mechanical CPR use held steady at 51%, the same as last year. One trend that has continued is the decrease in the use of induced hypothermia during resuscitation of cardiac arrest patients, from 38% in 2016 to only 15% in 2019.

These are just some of the insights about the profession uncovered in the EMS Trend Report. You can hear more when I join Greg Friese, EMS1 editor-in-chief, for a special session at the Pinnacle EMS Leadership Forum in Orlando, on July 25, “Taking the Nation's Pulse: The 2019 Fitch/EMS1 Trend Report.” We will discuss more in depth what we found and what it means for the future of EMS. Join us to learn more about what your colleagues said are the profession’s biggest challenges; then enjoy fabulous programming and networking opportunities with EMS leaders who are finding solutions (Learn more about Pinnacle and register here by June 10 to save).

Paramedic Chief subscribers will be among the first the first to receive a copy of the 2019 EMS Trend Report and analysis – and make sure to look for your opportunity to participate in the 2020 EMS Trend Report survey next year.

About the author

Roxanne Shanks, MBA, is a partner at Fitch & Associates. She serves as the CEO for LifeFlight Eagle Air Medical Program in Kansas City, Mo., and also as the executive director for the Association of Critical Care Transport in Platte City, Mo. She has an extensive background in healthcare and EMS leadership with more than 26 years of experience in progressively responsible clinical and leadership roles. She can be reached at rshanks@emprize.net.

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