One Mission, One Team

That’s the theme for this year’s EMS Week.  It promotes unity, and I like it.  Unfortunately unity is not our strongest asset.  Many local EMS systems in the US seem to be rooted more in tradition than science, operate in vacuums, and resist the idea that something could be learned from another model.  This short Best Practices in Emergency Services piece from John Becknell sums this up well.

I’ve volunteered as an EMT and paramedic in three states, both in fire departments and rescue squads.  I’ve worked for private companies in two.  I did my paramedic school internship with two metropolitan fire departments.  I’ve worked on ambulances and ALS chase trucks in rural, suburban, and urban areas.  I’ve waited for calls on street corners in a truck and in comfortable buildings.  Each service and system approached EMS in a different way, but the patient presentations were remarkably similar in each community.

From the patient’s perspective, it does not matter if the people who show up when they need help are called EMTs or paramedics.  It does not matter if they volunteer or get paid.  It does not matter if their service is funded by donations, transport revenue, or taxes.  They expect their heart attack to be detected and to be taken to the hospital best equipped to manage it.  They expect to receive medication to open their constricted airways.  They expect their pain to be treated before being moved.  And they expect to receive these interventions from competent, compassionate, and motivated people.  When they don’t get these things, their EMS system has failed.

I hope the spirit of unity extends beyond EMS week, and remember that we’re all here for the sick person.



  1. I have had a long career in EMS. we do not stand united very well. The ability to function is one of our greatest strengths. Unfortunately, it is also one of our greatest detriments.

    • emspatientperspective says:

      Thanks Bill. We seem to take pride in how independent each service is, and how undereducated we are in the United States. Canada, Australia, and the UK have very active paramedic advocacy organizations, but competition among delivery models holds us back in the country. In this country, nurses and firefighters are able to present a unified front, and enjoy more money and political clout than EMS. I hope that changes.

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