There’s a lot of risk to delivering prehospital EMS; a look at on-the-job injury and fatality rates illustrates that. Our rates are comparable to those of police and firefighters—careers universally regarded as among the most dangerous.
Hoping to foster a safer EMS work environment, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) last year released its EMS Safety course, which is now much acclaimed and being taught to providers nationwide.
“We do a lot of fire-safety training, which is incredibly important, but there was a hole I think this program filled,” says Elsa Tuttle, RN, BSN, assistant chief of EMS education for Missouri’s Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, which will provide the program districtwide. “Through our curricula for EMTs and paramedics, we’ve always taught many of the aspects of safety, but until NAEMT put this course together and said, ‘These are some of the things EMS folks specifically are involved in,’ some parts never really got addressed. There are components in this program that haven’t really been brought to light before.”
The course is designed to reduce risk through promoting an overall EMS culture of safety. It tackles areas like emergency-vehicle operations, functioning at scenes and handling patients, and keeping patients, practitioners and bystanders safe from harm. The goal is to sharpen risk-assessment and decision-making skills.
Among its unique areas of emphasis, the course covers personal health—an area many in EMS neglect.
“I’ve been in EMS education forever, and that module is one of the things that impresses me most,” says Tuttle. “It talks about rest and relaxation and sleep and our ability to work safely, and goes into hydration and nutrition and those kinds of things. Overall, I think the course really takes everything EMS providers face and increases their awareness, so that they can realize, ‘Hey, maybe I can prevent a back injury,’ or ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that being a distractor when I’m driving.’
“It helps people think every day about what they’re doing.”