Quick Thoughts from the EMS Today 2012 Conference

This was my first time at the EMS Today conference produced by JEMS and I have certainly not been disappointed by the promise of quality education, networking, and new products. The ride-along with BCFD EMS, described in my post yesterday, help set the tone for a genuine learning experience. Whatever your level of experience or interest in EMS there was something for you here in Baltimore.

The pre-conference courses began on Tuesday and the ones I observed were excellent varying from the “Back to Basics Skills Lab” by Bill Justice that was attended by many young, new EMS professionals to the “EMS Field Training and Evaluation Program” led by Troy Hagen and Skip Kirkwood that opened up many new questions for me about how EMS functions today and what we need to do to improve it. Others I would have liked to attend included Advanced Airway Management, EMS Street Survival, and a workshop on best practices for delivering and tracking training by Greg Friese with CentreLearn.

The “Global Climate of EMS” session led by Jerry Overton was a great way to start my day yesterday by forcing me to take a hard look at how our EMS systems are designed in the US and how they compare to the rest of the world. Some of the sobering statistics can be found in my past tweets by @hp_ems or by searching the #EMStoday hashtag. But more importantly, Overton challenged the core model of EMS based on a 7:59 response time and automatic transport to the hospital ED created as a result of the 1965 Medicare legislation. Some of his suggestions included “Alternate End Points” for appropriate care and nurse triage in the PSAP to determine response alternatives. While the legal concerns surfaced quickly, the reply from places doing it cited cost savings and more appropriate care as a positive return. This was a discussion that continued with a lively dialog over lunch at the EMS Leadership Lunch & Learn. Interestingly, the session I attended between these talks was on “Culture Change from the Ground Up” by Fire Chief Gary Ludwig who had a very different premise. The first 30 minutes of the session covered how to parallel the title structure of Fire over to EMS and how to design the appropriate collar brass to recognize the unique skills of EMS. But at the same time Ludwig proudly stated the fact that each Paramedic is always a Firefighter in his system which seemed in strange contrast as he presented the ratio of fire calls to medical as only 1:5. The rhetorical question he asked was “Are we a Fire service that responds to EMS calls or an EMS system that occasionally responds to fire call?” If Fire departments are going to do EMS successfully for patient outcome, he maintained, they must “embrace” the mission of EMS.

Another interesting session was the “EMS Policy Summit” with Lisa Tofil. She presented a comprehensive background to recent and pending legislation offering her own unique perspective on the changes coming as a result of the current politics in Washington. While PPACA will not go away in its entirety, it will most likely be severely gutted regardless of the Supreme Court decision expected in June on its constitutional challenges. There is some significant legislation affecting EMS that we need to be watching and our voice needs to be strong and unified to affect positive change. Tofil’s recommendation to stay on top of these issues is to visit AdvocatesforEMS.org and if possible attend the “EMS on the Hill Day” later this month.

After what seemed like an already full day of sessions, I attended the Opening ceremonies including a keynote talk from Randy Mantooth (aka Johnny Gage of of the 1970’s TV show Emergency!) Mantooth shared many personal stories related to our profession and challenged each of the heroes in the room to always remember the reason they answered their calling to this field. It wasn’t the excitement of Johnny and Roy, but the empathy they made us feel. “It spoke to your DNA” he reminded everyone and need to always remember that. Shortly afterwards, everyone was dismissed for the opening of the exhibit hall which was a feast of new technology for any geek.

The evening ended with a premier viewing of the first installment of a wonderful new video series called “CodeSTEMI” distributed on the First Responder Network (FRN) and other gatherings for bloggers and social media advocates. It was a great opportunity to meet friends in person and renew relationships.

My only real disappointment at the conference was learning how many EMS professionals spent their own money completely out of their personal pocket in order to be here. But I now understand why they did it.

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