EMS Today, Exclusives, Training

JEMS Games: 10 Years of a Professional and Personal Adventure

I had been in EMS for over 20 years in the fall of 2004, when I was approached by a friend and coworker about competing in a competition. She told me that she and two other coworkers wanted me to join them as a team to compete in a new EMS clinical competition. They were called the “JEMS Games,” and the second year of the competition would be held at EMS Today in early 2005 in Philadelphia.

I asked them and myself one question, “Why?” I was an established and experienced paramedic and had never done anything like this, so why should I go through a process of judgment I didn’t need to do?

We all talked, and it was decided we would give it a try and “have some fun.” We had one thought: How could a team from a small county in Delaware compete with teams from the likes of New York City, London, Miami, and Queensland, Australia?

We obtained the support of our leadership at Sussex County EMS and we applied to compete. We looked at the rules describing the preliminary competition, and we needed to decide who on the team could best preform at each station, and how we could improve our performance over other teams who would compete.

One part of the competition was an IV bolus station, where speed and accuracy counted. We decided to use a 14-gauge catheter and placed a stopcock in the IV line. Using a 60 mL syringe, we would be able to rapidly and accurately give the bolus.

Arriving On Scene

We arrived at EMS Today, excited and knowing that we’d have fun and hopefully learn something, but that it would be over for us after the preliminaries.

We checked in and began to realize that most every other team that had signed up for the competition was just like us. We immediately began to network with providers from many other states—even countries—who were as nervous and as excited as we were. We found ourselves cheering for other teams during the competition and took many good ideas that we could use in both our team as well as our EMS practice.

When we finished the preliminary competition, we were convinced our time in the games was over. We threw our bags (now in complete disarray) in the corner of our hotel room and went to dinner.

The next day, we were shocked and thrilled to find we had made it as one of the three teams to compete in the final compeition! We scrambled to rebuild our gear and prepare for the finals. This act of not touching your gear after the preliminaries has become the yearly ritual of the Sussex County EMS team to this day. 

In the finals, we found we were challenged to the limits of our knowledge and ability to work through sensory overload—including a simulated explosion. Much like a sporting event, the audience of our peers—EMTs and paramedics from across the country—cheered us on! When it was over, our team from the small state of Delaware, competing just to have fun, walked away with gold medals around our necks.

Taking Home Gold

For our department, this news came during budget work at both the county and the state level. Within a month, the four of us had a 20-minute conversation with the governor of Delaware in her office about the importance of supporting high-quality EMS. This publicity has proven invaluable to our EMS system over the years. Our team has gone on to win many more medals and develop a legacy that’s helped with morale and recruitment for over more than a decade.

My days of crawling through a tunnel and hauling up gear with ropes is over, but I stay involved in the JEMS Games as a judge. I bring my perspective as a competitor to the administration of the games, and I hope that others have the same career-changing experience that I had. I have developed a network of friends that are both competitors and judges who have helped me grow both personally and professionally. All of this happened because I took the chance to just “see how we would do” upon meeting my peers in the arena of friendly competition.