EMTs – Unsung Heroes

Many persons do not see the need for Emergency Medical Technicians, EMTs until they are pinned in a car after an accident. Death stares you in the face and suddenly EMTs are sought after. It has been recorded that a president of an overseas country met in a serious motor vehicle accident and the EMTs took longer than was expected to arrive on the scene. While pinned down in the car, he watched how these professionals worked feverishly with firefighters to cut him out of the car and brought him to the hospital. He returned to work months later and ensured that EMTs were recognized at a special function organized by the Ministry of Health and later increased their salaries. For as long as I know myself, EMTs have been unsung heroes.

EMTs play a very important role in the health sector. They are important because they are the first medical responder to an emergency situation. In fact, they are well trained to handle any situation that can be traumatic. Their responsibility also is to transport the patient to the hospital in a safe and efficient manner.

As a Health Administrator for many years, I have observed that an EMT is an incredibly draining position both physically and mentally. Emergency calls can range from life threatening issues such as cardiac arrests or gun shot wounds to minor complaints such as soar throats or sprained ankles. These calls bring EMTs to a wide variety of locations including patients’ homes, businesses and even out on the street. Once on scene with the patient, EMTs efficiently treat any life threatening issues, such as difficulty breathing or major bleeding. Subsequently, they discern the major health complaint through meticulous completion of a history and physical examination. Depending on the level of training, EMTs may intubate patients in the field, acquire and read an EKG, and treat patients with myriad medications while en route to the hospital.

EMTs work closely with firefighters and the police. Firefighters are wonderful assets to EMTs as they assist with difficult extractions on the scene of motor car collisions, which is on the rise globally and can also provide medical care to the patient should the EMS unit require additional assistance. Once the team has arrived at the hospital, EMTs interact directly with nurses and emergency medical physicians to transfer patient care.

I am told, working as an EMT is extremely rewarding. EMTs have incredibly personal interactions with patients and their families. Moreover, an EMT has a phenomenal ability to have a positive impact in your community and to truly serve those in need.

There are several different levels of training provided by several reputable institutions in Jamaica, namely University of the West Indies, University of Technology, Health, Education and Counselling Institute, just to name a few. The levels include

1) EMT 1 – Basic
This is the entry level position where you learn basic skills and health care knowledge to provide pre-hospital care. People at this level are typically paired with a higher-level provider in ambulances, on fire trucks or in the emergency department. Certification requires at least 150 hours of classroom and practical education over a period 2-5 months.

2) Intermediate/Enhanced EMT 1
This is an intermediate position that does not exist in all countries, but it expands the scope of practice for the EMT B with more skills, medications and knowledge. It requires basic EMT training and some experience in the field.

3) Paramedic or EMT 2/P
This is the most advanced pre-hospital provider. EMT-Ps have a broad health knowledge and an advanced life-saving skill set. This training often requires at least 700 hours of classroom training as well as a significant amount of experience in the field, but medics can work in any setting, including airborne (helicopter) and wilderness EMS.

EMTs are expected to work 12-hour shifts amounting to 48-60 per week in many countries. The salaries range from US$3,000-US$3,500 monthly with benefits. Some private ambulance services also have 12 or 24 hour shifts but these positions are better suited for full time employment. Training costs are usually US$1,000 for Basic and increasing to US$3,000.

I lift my hat to Prof Sir Dr Rosevelt Crooks, Dr Delwin Ferguson, Miss Nadecia Murray and Miss Shauna Robinson and the many others who have served well and continue to serve in EMS or Accident and Emergency Department in Hospitals. You remain heroes in our hearts.

Contributed by HE Prof Colin O Jarrett
Senior News Editor
December 2019

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