JEMS Editor-in-Chief Shares Lessons from the Road

Charles Kuralt was an American journalist known for his “On the Road” segments on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and later as the anchor of CBS News Sunday Morning. He traveled the nation and presented his discoveries along the way, from the smallest diners to the rim of the Grand Canyon.

I always learned from his travels and reports. So because I was on the road more than home in April, May and June, I thought I’d share a few important EMS impressions and lessons I learned during my travels.

Perfect Attendance
At the Rhode Island EMS Expo 2011 in April, I was impressed by the support offered for the conference by the Providence area hospitals, and also by the hospital administrators’ attendance at sessions. As a speaker who tries to present important messages for system planners, administrators and providers, I found it satisfying to have the top brass in the audience so they could understand and support such concepts as therapeutic hypothermia, continuous positive airway pressure, tourniquets and mechanical CPR devices–in the field and in their EDs.

I also learned about the capabilities of Rhode Island massage therapy teams deployed to major incidents to support the physical issues faced by responders, and their award-winning disaster medical assistance team (DMAT) that can rapidly deploy essential equipment and resources.

A week later at the Michigan EMS EXPO, I was impressed by a class of young EMT students who were brought to the show via bus by their program administrators to introduce them to a large conference and exhibit hall. The looks in their eyes told me it was a home run for their school and the EMS agencies they’d soon be joining.

Annual Check-Up
In early May, I was at the annual EMS Symposium offered by University Hospitals’ EMS Training and Disaster Preparedness Institute in Beachwood, Ohio, and heard a lecture about EMS and fire responders who had serious heart conditions detected and corrected during annual department physicals. I met one provider there who owed his life to his fire department’s annual physical. It was a powerful message worth repeating to you.

Unwanted Change
It was a sidebar conversation I had with program administrators that gave me my biggest concern and take-home message. UH operates an outstanding regional EMS coordinating, training and support program. As a part of the program, they purchase supplies and equipment that benefit the dozens of services in the region. They told me a company they’d done business with for years had assigned a new, aggressive, young, salesperson who’d offered them an unacceptable quote on equipment.

One issue was that the product was unacceptable based on past practice. However, the bigger issue was that the salesperson copped an attitude and told them, “You need me [our product]; I don’t need you.”

That set them on fire. They were ready to switch to another manufacturer based on the young rep’s statement. Knowing the manufacturer and their outstanding reputation for high-quality products and services, I e-mailed them on the spot about the issue.

|Within five minutes, I got a reply from their marketing director, who told me he would follow up on the concern Monday morning. He did so and resolved the matter promptly.

In another region, I learned of companies paring back because of the economy, releasing long-standing regional sales reps and replacing them with new, less experienced reps. The result: Several agencies told me the disruption in service and support was enough to push them to another vendor with a similar product.

It’s a message manufacturers and distributors need to hear and pay attention to: EMS agencies like their time-honored, established relationships and seasoned sales representatives, and they don’t tolerate change well.

In Wellsboro, Pa. (aka “Firetown USA”), I learned that most hospitals (and Home Depot stores) are nearly an hour’s drive from the region, necessitating careful planning, training and resource stockpiles for mass casualty incidents (MCIs). Within a month after my MCI class in the region, they were faced with an incident involving a tree that toppled on a wagon full of tourists. They handled the incident with poise and confidence, as well as resources that included an MCI trailer, exceptional fire agency assets and support, and five medical helicopters.

New Technology
Finally, I learned at the International Association of Fire Chiefs EMS Section’s Fire-Rescue Med Conference in May that all OnStar advisors have now been trained in emergency medical dispatch, and are capable of offering appropriate medical self-help instructions to motorists and passing along more advanced information to responding agencies on mechanism of injury and forces involved in collisions.

In conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s trauma triage criteria, new OnStar technology will soon help us triage patients before we arrive and identify early those who need to be sent to trauma centers. In an age of exploding medical and Internet technology, this is information we should all appreciate and use to the fullest.

These are just a few of the nuggets I found on the road. I’m sure you have many you can share with me and fellow readers. So take a minute when you learn of a new approach, technology or procedure that can help others, and share them with your colleagues on JEMS Connect, FireEMS Blogs and our Facebook fan page. JEMS

This article originally appeared in August 2011 JEMS as “Remnants from the Road: Lessons from the troops in the field.”

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