A team of Sussex County EMS (Del.) paramedics walked away with the gold medal at the 2011 JEMS Games.
Displaying confidence and quickness on their feet, the Sussex County team was successfully able to manage multiple patients at a cult party gone bad. “We’re all very happy, it’s been a great experience, and very rewarding,” says paramedic and Sussex team leader Jeff Cox.
Cox’s team performed second in the finals, and he admitted he didn’t think his team won.“When you’re in the moment, you have no idea how your partners are doing,” Cox says. “You may have performed flawlessly but did they? You may not have been on your game, but they were.”
Cox’s team included Jill Wix, Stu Hensley and alternate Jessielyn Woolbright. Runners-up were Surry County (N.C.) followed by third place finishers Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
“It’s a personal challenge, a team challenge and gives us pride in the department,” says Cox.
JEMS Games finalists were met with a tough scenario that tested their medical and thinking skills. The set up was a fire at the home of a cult, which sent victims fleeing. One patient suffered a crush injury when the crowd fled through a doorway.
But looks were deceiving. The scenario included smoke, loud music, a hydrogen sulfide tent, a haz-mat component, a pediatric patient, an unresponsive patient, a patient who seized midway through the scenario and one dead. Some of the patients drank antifreeze; others mixed vodka and phenobarbital.
“We are waiting for the comet,” chanted JEMS Hands On columnist Fran Hildwine, who played the cult leader.
JEMS Games coordinator Chad Brocato says the competition is an “entertainment feature plus a clinical feature married together.”
To heighten the entertainment, team leaders were wore wireless microphones so the audience could hear orders called out, and, occasionally, mistakes made. “You always wish you had more time,” says Miami-Dade paramedic Michael Ung. “You have to be on your toes.”
The set-up is designed to mimic real life, where patients will go through cycles during their care, creating new challenges for the teams. For example, one patient collapsed midway through the competition. “It was actually a very good scenario,” says Miami-Dade team leader Bernardo Bernardo. “We got thrown off on some stuff.”
“It was keeping up with current events,” added Miami-Dade alternate Greg Logue.
“That’s what we’re looking for the decision-making process and their clinical interventions along the way. We’re trying to create a really high level competition at this point,” Brocato says.
The three teams were sequestered out of the main ballroom at the EMS Today Conference & Exposition in Baltimore before the competition. And only one team of three went at a time so none of the others had an advantage of knowing the scenario.
Finalists were the fastest of the 16 teams that went through a different course Wednesday, where, according to JEMS editor in chief A.J. Heightman, “exceptional care” was delivered by all of the teams.
“The commonality [of the finalists] is all three team workers act like a team but all three can be individually excellent,” Brocato says. “And we see it all the time. Those are the teams that win. You know when they walk in who the team leader is, but by the same token, you can see teammate No. 2 off to the side managing a patient as the leader.”
The first place team took home a $10,000 Glidescope Ranger, donated by Verathon, $5,000 AMBU Smartman, $4,200 Masimo's RAD-57, a $1,000 cash prize and free registration to EMS Today 2012. The second place team earned $750, and the third-place team won $500, as well as many other prizes.
All of the teams spend hours each week training for such events—hours outside of their normal workloads. The Miami-Dade team spends 40 hours a week or more training specifically for up to eight annual competitions like the JEMS Games.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice for our families,” says Miami-Dade paramedic Robert Cardenas.
In the end, though, it’s worth the effort. “It’s always a success when you make it this far,” says Sussex paramedic Stu Hensley. “It’s good PR; it’s good for the department.”
Cox says it was exciting to learn they’d won. “We’re happy,” he says, “and just very proud.”