ID Officials Get Look at Paramedics’ COVID-Era Jobs

Paramedics and EMTs in Ada County have always worked around the clock to help those in need.

Jacob Scholl

The Idaho Statesman

(MCT)

Oct. 5—Paramedics and EMTs in Ada County have always worked around the clock to help those in need.

In the age of COVID-19, that 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week effort has meant an extra layer of work — literally. These frontline workers must wear loads of personal protective equipment — gloves, masks, a gown, eye protection — for each call they take.

On Monday afternoon, some of the county’s elected officials got a taste of that demanding experience.

All three members of Ada County’s Board of Commissioners — Ryan Davidson, Rod Beck and Kendra Kenyon — suited up in full PPE at the Ada County Paramedics Administration Building to get a better understanding of what local paramedics encounter every day. And that was the goal, officials said — to give the commissioners an up-close picture of what’s happening.

Ada County Paramedics Chief Shawn Rayne said his department is as busy as it has ever been, and the added, but necessary, precautions make the job even more difficult.

County commissioners, as well as some members of the media, performed tasks that paramedics do: chest compressions to simulate performing CPR, running medical equipment up and down stairs, and rolling gurneys across parking lots.

After gurneys were loaded into ambulances, paramedics played the patients while participants played the paramedics. As the ambulances rolled around the block, commissioners and reporters asked their patients a series of medical questions, standard for any paramedic trying to determine the cause of someone’s problems.

And they did it while decked head to toe in protective gear.

With the simulations complete after about 60 minutes, commissioners removed their PPE to find their clothes drenched in sweat underneath. Paramedics often have to wear their protective gear for hours.

“We found out firsthand how hard these paramedics work, because it is an exhausting task. We were only doing it for about an hour,” Beck said, pointing to his sweat-soaked shirt. “We do have a lot of heroes and heroines here, and the community should thank them for their service.”

Jacque Cole, an advanced EMT for Ada County Paramedics, said after the Monday exercises that paramedics are responding to more calls than ever before, exhausting first responders and burning out staff.

“It’s mentally and physically exhausting,” Cole said. “We do this job because we’re … deeply committed, we’re very dedicated, we have a lot of passion for this job, and to help and to be available for our community.”

Rayne said one of the best ways for the community to help EMTs and paramedics is to get both the COVID-19 vaccine and this year’s flu shot.

“If you’re afraid of getting the vaccine, at the very least go talk to your doctor and make sure it’s the right thing for you, because it probably is the right thing for you,” Rayne said.

“That ounce of prevention really helps us out in trying to get through this pandemic.”

This story was originally published October 5, 2021 1:22 PM.

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(c)2021 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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