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There Is No Better Time to Celebrate National EMS Week

By Allison G. S. Knox
Columnist, EDM Digest

This week, we celebrate National EMS Week. It is the 46th annual National EMS Week and runs from Sunday, May 17 through Saturday, May 23. President Gerald Ford originally developed this event during an initiative to create more support for emergency medical services (EMS) throughout the United States.

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National EMS Week acknowledges and recognizes all of the EMS professionals who work tirelessly in pre-hospital emergency medicine and save lives every day. And what better time than now – when the nation faces one of its biggest emergency situations since World War II – to honor all those in the EMS field?

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best in EMS professionals throughout the country and the world. COVID-19 has shed a strong light on many of the struggles and sacrifices that EMS workers deal with every day.

Celebrating EMS Professionals Amid a Pandemic

Each year, municipalities throughout the United States do something in support of EMS workers. In the past, there have been barbecues, luncheons, dinners and numerous other events that celebrate and support the hard work of EMS providers. This year, however, many of the celebrations face challenges due to numerous and coronavirus-related public health restrictions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on many communities. Videos of exhausted EMS agencies have surfaced in various jurisdictions. Similarly, other stories have emerged about certain policy decisions surrounding COVID-19 patients, as well as the levels of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The New York Times, for example, recently published an article describing just how overwhelmed the 911 system is in New York City. Another NYT article shows EMS workers attempting to transport a patient while wearing full PPE, which gets hot extremely quickly. Other EMS professionals in New York have shown how difficult it is to cope with the sudden influx of patients created by the pandemic crisis.

EMS Remains Strong Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic and Other Challenges

Despite the myriad coronavirus issues that surfaced in New York – which mirror many other U.S. cities and states – EMS professionals have shown immense dedication to their positions. They must often make major sacrifices for their patients and their agencies, and they’re certainly not in it for the money.

In fact, according to an article by Anna Schmidt at Fox Business, the national annual average salary for an emergency medical technician is $29,924. This is a staggeringly low amount of compensation for a person who deals with psychiatric patients, gunshot wounds, stabbings, horrific accidents and all of the trauma that may even result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Other areas of the country have reported recruitment and retention problems within EMS agencies. The Journal of Emergency Medical Services recently published an article about recruitment and retention issues in this field.

The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated just how much Americans depend on emergency medical services, particularly in major emergencies. It is a noteworthy reminder of the sacrifices that many EMS workers make on a regular basis to serve people and their communities.

The current pandemic has offered Americans new reasons to renew their support for EMS professionals. Their commitment to saving lives during this national crisis shows us all why EMS workers richly deserve a week of recognition for their sacrifices.

Give Local EMS Workers a Shout-Out during National EMS Week

This week, be sure to give a shout-out to any EMS professional you know. Thank them for the work they do, and let them know your appreciation for their sacrifices.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as an Intermittent Emergency Management Specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services, as At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She is also chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds multiple graduate degrees.

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