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EMS Week: Beyond the Call

National EMS Week dates back to 1974, when President Gerald Ford authorized a special commemoration celebrating the essential work EMS providers perform in our nation’s communities every day. The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) partners with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) to lead EMS Week activities each year.

Together NAEMT and ACEP are “working to ensure the important contributions of EMS practitioners in safeguarding the health, safety, and well-being of their communities are fully celebrated and recognized,” according to NAEMT. “EMS Week is the perfect time to recognize EMS and all its practitioners do for our nation.”

This year’s theme is Beyond the Call, and the five days of EMS Week have themes that represent the diverse nature of EMS: Education, Safety, EMS for Children, Save-a-Life (CPR and Stop the Bleed), and EMS Recognition.

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Education: A Life-Changing Opportunity

Florida high school students learn EMS skills on a rigorous path toward a shared goal

At first glance the students performing CPR compressions at the front of the class look just like any other student enrolled in the St. Petersburg College (SPC) EMS program. Each wears the wine-colored EMT student uniform shirt, and each has their textbook open to the same cardiac emergencies chapter, trying to learn the pathophysiology of a cardiac embolism. 

However, other qualities set them apart from the rest of the students enrolled in St. Petersburg’s EMS program. Almost all are too young to vote. All hope to receive not only their EMT certificate later this year but their high school diploma as well. Each of these students is enrolled as both a freshman at St. Petersburg College and a senior at nearby Gibbs High School.

This year SPC entered into a partnership with the St. Petersburg Fire Department (SPFD) to help sponsor high school students through EMT school. Those who graduate with their EMT certificate will eventually be sponsored by SPFD through the St. Petersburg College Fire Academy and possibly attain a full-time position with the fire department.

But the road isn’t easy. Students commit to maintain a high level of professionalism and conduct throughout all four years in high school. During each year they complete a medical course and are monitored by SPFD officers, ensuring they maintain a minimum grade average. Disciplinary actions or dropping below 2.0 GPA is possible grounds for expulsion.

“If you’re not willing to do the work, this isn’t for you,” says 18-year-old Colin Porter, one of only four remaining students in this semester’s class. “It’s been a lot of sacrifice.”

The educational partnership is the brainchild of veteran SPFD firefighter Lt. Christopher Henderson, who saw a need to provide an affordable means for local middle- and high-schoolers to work toward a goal and potential employment with the fire department. “A lot of these kids I saw were from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, where the interactions they have with people in uniform may not always be the most positive,” he says. “I wanted kids who may be led astray to have something to work toward and focus on. I wanted them to have a realistic goal they could achieve if they were willing to work hard and stay out of trouble.” 

When not on shift with SPFD, Henderson teaches all labs, delivers all lectures, and conducts the National Registry First Responder course, which students take in their junior year. “A lot of my time off is spent working with these kids,” says Henderson, who has assumed a protective parental role with his charges. “We’ve grown very close.”  

With emotional problems, PTSD, and suicide rates on the rise among first responders, Henderson realizes his young students won’t be immune from the harsh realities of the job. 

“That’s what scares me the most,” he says. “These kids are going to do a lot of good, but we see a lot of bad. I can only teach them that they’re never alone out there. We are a brotherhood that has to be able to take care of each other.” 

—Paul Serino, BS, paramedic and full-time faculty member, EMS program, St. Petersburg College 

Safety: Partners in Prevention

EPIC Medics works diligently to make communities safer for citizens

On May 8, 1996, San Diego paramedic Paul Maxwell responded to a pediatric emergency. Toddler Nicholas Rosecrans had wandered out of his daycare facility and found the nongated pool of a neighboring house. Maxwell and his team worked diligently to resuscitate the boy and succeeded in restarting his heart, but Nicholas was too badly injured to recover. Twelve hours later his family released him from life support.

Driven to make losses like Nicholas a thing of the past, Maxwell and a small group of like-minded paramedics banded together to form Medics Eliminating Preventable Injury in Children (EPIC Medics), an organization of paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, and others to deliver a message of preventing injury and accidents.

EPIC Medics leads local and statewide efforts to address the leading causes of injury in pediatric populations, such as pool, auto, and bicycle accidents. In coordination with the San Diego Safe Kids Coalition, the organization has presented at countless conferences and explored injury-prevention measures with local, state, and national governments. The California Paramedic Foundation currently runs two EPIC Medic safety campaigns: Helmets for Kids and Safety City.

EPIC Medics also bestows an annual Nicholas Rosecrans Award to recognize those who also work in prevention and to inspire others to join. This award recognizes those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty by preventing injury and illness before it occurs.

The California Paramedic Foundation, in partnership with EMS World and the RedFlash Group, is now accepting nominations for the 2019 Nicholas Rosecrans Award. The 2019 award winner will receive recognition during the opening ceremonies at EMS World Expo in New Orleans, complimentary registration for up to four team members, the opportunity to present their program in a concurrent session at Expo, and recognition in online articles published to the EMS World and California Paramedic Foundation websites. 

Visit to nominate outstanding prevention programming in your region. Nominations will be accepted through August 1, 2019. 

—John Ehrhart, director, California Paramedic Foundation 

EMS for Children: Every Child a Star

A paramedic-designed MIH program targets children and families with complex medical needs

The numbers of children with multifaceted neurological profiles, cardiac histories, ventilator dependence, and other complex medical needs are growing rapidly, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. EMS providers, nurses, home health providers, and even the child’s family may not always receive the training to handle their complicated needs. Regular contact between caregivers, first responders, and families is critical.

That’s the idea behind the Special Needs Tracking and Awareness Response System (STARS)—a paramedic-led program of Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. STARS connects children with special needs to qualified healthcare providers trained to handle their complex situations.

The STARS program helps coordinate and coach ambulance districts, fire districts, and community hospitals to recognize the special needs of patients in their coverage area and undergo specialized training to care for their patients’ special medical needs. Once a child, or “star,” is identified for the program, a home visit is scheduled to secure pertinent medical information, share expectations, and communicate information to the EMS service. The fire or ambulance district then appoints a STARS coordinator and determines a point of contact for families.

The idea for STARS started four years ago, explains Patricia Casey, program coordinator, who was serving as a lieutenant in a local ambulance district and had developed a strong interest in MIH services. To get the program rolling, Casey and her partner developed strong contacts among the ground services and pediatric hospitals in the area. Their EMS experience provides a keen insight into the capabilities and limitations of regional agencies and community hospitals when caring for special needs children, and what instructions and training are most effective for providers and the families they serve.

“There is no typical special needs child,” says Casey. “You can be presented with a case where you’re at a total loss. Some have treatments that fall outside of typical algorithms. This way an arriving crew can pull up all the information they need before they arrive on scene. The main focus of STARS is getting that comfort level.”

While the STARS program originally operated on paper forms and binders, it’s since transitioned to an electronic database accessible through an app by all healthcare providers in the region who register. Casey now spends the majority of her time in an educational and administrative role, hosting webinars, speaking at training events, pulling and reporting metrics on patient outcomes, and other administrative functions related to promoting the value of STARS. 

“We do this because we believe in it,” says Casey. “These families deserve no less.” 

—Jonathan Bassett

Save-a-Life: Safeguarding Our Schools

New Jersey school district teaches lifesaving skills to students and staff

On March 19, 2019, Pascack Valley High School culinary arts teacher Julianne Downes saved the life of a student who was choking on food in her classroom by performing the Heimlich maneuver. In April 2018, Pascack Hills security officer Roger Caron performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking student during lunch, saving her life.

Apart from saving the lives of two students, what do these two cases have in common? Every staff member and student in the 2,500-person Pascack Valley Regional High School District is not only trained but certified in CPR and AED use, and has been since 2015. 

“In 2014 we had a student-athlete on the track team at one of our high schools collapse and go into cardiac arrest,” says Barry Bachenheimer, EdD, FF-EMT, the district’s director of curriculum, who is also an EMT and CPR instructor trainer. “Thanks to the quick reaction and implementation of CPR and an AED by students, coaches, the athletic trainer, and local EMS, the student had a full recovery. As a result we as a district, supported by our board of education, decided that every one of our students, faculty, and staff would not only be trained but also certified in CPR every year.” 

All physical education teachers were certified as American Heart Association Instructors by Lifesavers Inc., a New Jersey training center. They in turn certify all staff members during the year and all freshmen and junior students in health class. Certifications are good for two years, and refresher classes are held each year.

The district’s efforts were recognized by the American Heart Association, which in 2016 bestowed the school district its annual Lifesaver Award for promoting the “chain of survival” for cardiac events. According to the AHA, Pascack Valley is the only school district in New Jersey in which all members of the school community are certified on a biennial basis, significantly exceeding “Janet’s Law” in New Jersey, which requires at least five certified staff members in each school and that students learn CPR. 

More recently the district has used grant money to purchase tourniquets and individual first aid kits and is in the process of training and certifying all staff and students in the Stop the Bleed: B-Con program. The district was recently commended in a report from the New Jersey Office of School Security for completing this training, as well as stocking multiple AEDs and bleeding control kits in public locations throughout each school in the district. 

—Jonathan Bassett

EMS Recognition: Honoring the Fallen 

Selfless medic is committed to memorializing those lost in the line of duty

Whether it’s an interstate memorial bike ride, a physical monument, or a meaningful moment of silence at conferences and gatherings, remembering responders lost in the line of duty is a responsibility that EMS providers don’t take lightly. 

Daniel Thomasson, of York, S.C., is a paramedic and district chief for Piedmont Medical Center EMS who personifies this commitment to remembering fallen colleagues. Following a January 2018 shooting in York County, S.C., which resulted in four officers wounded and the death of detective Mike Doty, Thomasson needed to act. He created Flags for the Fallen in his wood shop as a way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Flags for the Fallen (www.flagsforthe is a nonprofit organization that designs and manufactures custom-made wooden flags for fire, police, and EMS responders who are lost in the line of duty. Flags for the Fallen ships the flags to the home agency at no cost. To date Thomasson has created and delivered 55 flags and has another 20 currently in production.

“Having been a firefighter and paramedic for over 14 years, our public servants are incredibly important to me,” Thomasson says. “We are losing these heroes at an alarming rate, unfortunately. My family wanted a way to reach out to these departments that suffer this terrible loss, just to let them know their country is with them and they’re not forgotten.”

Hand-crafted of red oak, Thomasson’s flags feature the stars and stripes on the front, along with either a thin blue or red line (or EMS Star of Life) and the name, rank, and agency of the lost responder. On the back is the engraved name of the sponsor. Businesses and individuals can sponsor a flag for $35, which includes shipping to the agency of the lost responder. Flag sponsors have become much-appreciated donors who can help defray some of the costs, Thomasson says.

Ever the selfless medic looking to give back, Thomasson was recently commissioned to create special flags featuring the York County badge and insignia from other fire departments. He donated all profits back to organizations such as the Burned Children’s Fund. 

As he works to expand Flags for the Fallen, Thomasson aims to increase the sponsorship cost to allow for the creation of two flags—one for the department and one for the family members of the fallen responder. He also hopes to create a scholarship for a graduating high school senior who has lost his or her parent in the line of duty.

“This is one small way to memorialize officers and providers who were lost too soon,” says Thomasson. “It’s not much, but it’s always appreciated by the services and the relatives of these heroes. They deserve to never be forgotten.” 

—Jonathan Bassett

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