Nebraska Conference Teaches Important EMS Lessons

I don’t often report on EMS conferences, but I had the pleasure of lecturing at the Nebraska Statewide EMS Conference ( this summer in Kearney, Neb., along with popular EMS lecturer/author/cartoonist Steve Berry, EMS consultant and retired Chief of Colonie (N.Y.) EMS Jon Politis, and Eric Clauss, an RN/paramedic at Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University.

We each delivered 10 lectures. That’s a lot of lectures–but it’s worth it when you experience attendees like the Nebraska EMTs who are eager to learn and in their seats early, well before the sessions begin. That’s the first pearl of the Nebraska Conference: the attendees.

Kearney is in central Nebraska, surrounded by Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Iowa. The conference has been offered for 34 years, starting in 1979 with just 40 attendees. It now attracts about 400 people annually and, although it’s not a massive conference, it’s an important one to the men and women who deliver EMS service to the region and count on its speakers, content and exhibitors to bring them the latest ideas, concepts and products to help advance and polish their skills.

The attendees come from across the state, from areas of high populations such as Omaha (409,000) and Lincoln (258,000), to rural farming areas with very small populations such as Brewster Village (17), Burton Village (10), Anoka Village (6), Gross Village (2) or Monowi Village (just 1 person).

Some of these areas have just three businesses: a feed store, bank and post office. EMS is performed primarily by volunteer personnel who leave their jobs, farms or activities to respond to emergencies. The transport time to the nearest hospital may be hours in some areas, so a volunteer crew is often committed to one call–one patient–for over three hours.

These are truly committed volunteers who rely on the Nebraska Statewide EMS Conference to keep them current on medicine and innovations, and inspire them to handle perhaps just eight calls a year.

That’s what inspires me and other instructors to travel there and present 10 lectures to these dedicated attendees.

Another pearl of the Nebraska Conference is the infrastructure and management team that runs the event. First, the members are also volunteers who work 365 days a year planning and running the event. And, in addition to this, they all distribute handouts, collect evaluations, serve food at the after-hours Golf Tournament and EMS Volleyball competition, and help set up and troubleshoot projectors and AV devices.

A third key to the success of this conference is the amazing partnership and relationship with Younes Hospitality, a hospitality company owned and operated by Paul Younes and his family. The company owns and operates 11 hotels throughout Nebraska.

For years, the Nebraska Conference was offered in one of Paul’s hotels, but he built a fabulous conference center a few years ago and moved the EMS Conference to it.

Paul respects the EMS attendees and their work so much that he and his son carve the beef at the banquet included in each attendee’s inexpensive registration. Watching him serve 400 people when he could be other places enjoying his wealth and success was truly inspiring to me–and the attendees.

His words and business philosophy say it best, and remind me what EMS is all about:

“Our guests are the most important visitors on our premises. They are not dependent on us, we are dependent on them. They are not an interruption to our work; they are the purpose of it. They are not outsiders to our business, they are part of it. We are not doing them a favor by serving them; they are doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

But the most amazing part of this conference is never seen by the attendees. Each year after the last session ends, the conference committee members invite each speaker to a great lunch (catered by who else but Paul) and we critique the conference together. It’s the only conference I attend that involves me in the post-conference review before I leave. This shows how much they care about their conference, its speakers and the content presented.

What a great concept. Imagine how good our EMS delivery systems would become if we had a critique of each call with the ED staff, patients and their families immediately after each call.

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