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2018 EMS10 Winner Profile: Rommie Duckworth

An award-winning EMS educator, fire captain and EMS coordinator, Captain Rommie L. Duckworth, BS, LP, of the Ridgefield (Conn.) Fire Department, is acutely aware of the lifesaving difference first responders can make when they’re aware of sepsis. With this unique insight, he worked closely with the Sepsis Alliance to create Sepsis: First Response, a free online training module to improve awareness and understanding of sepsis among EMS providers nationwide.

Sepsis is the body’s life-threatening reaction to an infection that takes more than 270,000 lives a year in the United States. As many as 87% of sepsis cases originate in the patient’s community, and EMS are often the first medical providers to reach these cases. In fact, EMS transports as many as 60% of patients with severe sepsis arriving at the ED, yet many in EMS are unaware of sepsis or what they should do if they suspect it.

Using his more than 30 years of experience as an EMS provider, Duckworth developed the EMS-specific curriculum featured in Sepsis: First Response. This 60-minute training program—endorsed by the National Association of EMS Physicians, the National Association of EMS Educators, the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine, and the Sepsis Alliance—provides EMS personnel with the tools to rapidly identify and begin treating sepsis cases in the field. “Not every case will develop into septic shock, but the complex and insidious nature of sepsis demands that first responders be able to rapidly identify, assess and coordinate treatment for these critical patients that might otherwise fly under the radar,” says Duckworth.

According to the Sepsis Alliance, as many as 80% of sepsis deaths could be prevented with rapid diagnosis and treatment. Duckworth ensured the module offered EMS providers with the tools to effectively communicate and coordinate care with the ED and their in-hospital colleagues. This is a key component to improving in-hospital treatment times for sepsis patients who arrive by ambulance. Duckworth underscores that, “The importance of this information was simply not emphasized when I was starting my career. Luckily, we had great partners to make this program accessible to first responders of all levels and backgrounds today.”

In addition to the 60-minute training program, Duckworth and the Sepsis Alliance also coordinated with Lauren Epstein, MD, medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Chris Seymour, MD, associate professor for the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, to develop a 15-minute educational video that was awarded two prestigious Platinum MarCom Awards, the top award level. Of the more than 6,500 entries in 2018, only 17% received Platinum awards. Platinum winners are recognized for their excellence in terms of quality, creativity, and resourcefulness.

Sepsis: First Response is free to access and is currently offered on sepsis.org/sepsis-first-response. It will soon be available on the NAEMT website.

With Karin Molander, MD, Duckworth has also developed sepsis educational aids for EMS providers. He’s an advisory board member for the Sepsis Alliance and serves as an EMS advisor to the National Sepsis Coordinator Network. Duckworth continues to speak nationally and internationally on the importance of coordinating care for sepsis. He has also given free educational webinars on sepsis to help train first responders and other healthcare professionals. Duckworth has also developed a detailed library of seminars that he has given worldwide to educate the emergency provider and the public.