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10 reasons to attend EMS conferences

The long-term benefits of conference attendance; and why it’s especially important for volunteer EMS providers


EMS conferences provide outstanding education and CE opportunities and reinforce how far emergency medical care has progressed. No longer is EMS simply kicking the can down the road to definitive care. How effectively prehospital care is provided can make a difference in the course of care for many of the sickest patients. Other roles for EMS in caring for the community are on the horizon and embracing them will be critical to the survival of local volunteer and non-profit EMS agencies.

Here are 10 reasons to attend an EMS conference, and why it’s especially important for volunteers.

1. Get out of your comfort zone

Human beings are inherently tribalistic. It is our tendency to be convinced that our own beliefs, habits and culture are right and that we are normal.

Volunteer EMS agencies share this trait with nearly every other type of civic or community group. Networking and hearing new ideas from EMS educators who are from other parts of your state and around the nation will give you a fresh, more objective perspective about EMS.

2. Be inspired

Keynote speakers usually aim to relight the flame for EMTs who are frustrated, burned out and bored with everyday calls. Reinforcing that you are a part of a profession that makes a difference, is important and is much bigger than your local service can help turn crispy responders into positive force multipliers.


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3. Meet influential people

Myth and dogma tends to surround discussions of protocol, law and best practice. Conferences typically offer the opportunity to meet state officials, medical directors and subject matter experts.

Have your questions answered accurately by leading experts and top decision makers. Start a relationship and exchange contact information for future issues or questions.

4. Try before you buy

Many volunteer agencies purchase new equipment to keep pace with neighboring agencies. Sometimes they refuse to try anything new because they don’t see a reason to change from the devices they are familiar with.

Ask the sales representatives in the exhibit hall to demonstrate their products and convince you why it is both the best and the most fiscally responsible choice for your agency. Often you can have samples and literature sent directly to your station.You can even schedule a follow-up visit at the station for other members.

Looking for more product insights? Check out EMS1 How to buy guides.

5. Hear strategies that work

Most volunteer agencies nationwide suffer from the same issues of recruitment, retention, funding and maintaining clinical competence. EMS conferences usually offer education tracks focused on leadership, operations and education. Often there are tracks for volunteer and rural EMS.

The way we’ve always done it doesn’t work anymore. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, take away ideas and innovative solutions presented by administrators and consultants that have worked for them or they have observed at successful agencies.

6. Progress and impact

What may seem like new treatment practices such as pit crew CPR, reduction of oxygen administration, reduced lights and siren use and limited spinal immobilization were being discussed and debated at EMS conferences as far back as 15 years ago. Evidence-based medicine has replaced theory.

Progressive agencies who were willing to slay some sacred cows and document the results have made a huge impact on how EMS is provided today. Getting ahead of trends can minimize the cognitive dissonance caused by sudden changes to traditional patient care modalities and make getting buy-in for future initiatives much easier.

7. Stewardship

Stewardship is the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving. Volunteers have been providing emergency medical care in their communities for almost 100 years. More than half of all EMS providers are volunteers today.

As ambassadors of the profession, actively pursuing a commitment to both excellent and compassionate care is an undertaking that requires teamwork and unity. Spending time at an EMS conference with positive and like-minded people who share your passion for EMS and volunteering helps you recharge your batteries.

8. Invest in yourself and your agency

High-quality education provided by dynamic, entertaining and experienced presenters can help renew a love of learning. Attending a conference will immediately create better educated, involved and confident providers. Being a competent, confident and engaged EMT makes the volunteer EMS experience even more rewarding

The greater the number of members attending, the more you strengthen the agency through greater retention. Members of successful volunteer agencies can be consistently found proudly representing their service at state and national conferences year after year.

9. Hear the latest clinical research topics

Listening to what may be in store for the future of prehospital medicine is interesting as it teaches you to challenge your basic assumptions. It also highlights the need for continuing education and fosters an understanding of the need for a continuous evolution of the EMS profession.

10. Join an association or work to launch a new one

Representatives from the National Registry of EMTs, the National Association of EMTs, National Association of EMS Educators and the National Volunteer Fire Council can be found at national conferences and some of the larger state conferences. If your state has an EMS association or a volunteer EMS Association, find out what they are working on, and how you can get involved. If there is no state or local association, plan a meet and greet event and work on getting one started. Bring the latest news and information from the associations back to your agency and create a sense of excitement and inclusion in the greater EMS community.

Having a seat at the table where the future of EMS is being researched, imagined and designed requires volunteers be informed of and included at major EMS events. Encouraging volunteers to attend conferences, providing scholarships, eliciting feedback and getting involved will yield tremendous long-term benefits for the individual EMS providers, their departments and help ensure a successful future for volunteer EMS.

This article was originally posted Sept. 15, 2016. It has been updated.

Nancy Magee combines a business woman’s perspective on marketing, efficiency and customer service with an EMS volunteer’s heart. Nancy, a Connecticut native, now resides in Louisiana and offers her Volunteer Survival Series workshops and consulting services through MEDIC Training Solutions to agencies across the country. Contact Nancy at