Every year, the Missouri Ambulance Association and the Missouri Emergency Medical Services Association host the ICE Spring Break Conference at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. “ICE” stands for “Instructors-Coordinators-Examiners-Managers-EMS Providers” according to the brochure. Something seemed odd with that acronym, but this is my first year at the conference so I decided to just smile and nod. Perhaps someone will fill me in later.
I’m here for three days taking part in several classes and doing my best to offer up some color commentary. If you’re the Twitter-ing type, you can also follow the hashish-tag, #ICEconference.
Preconference: NAEMT Safety Course
Taz Meyer & Jim Fingerhut
Call me a nerd, but I was pretty excited to take this course for three reasons. My boss was equally happy to send me due to his general belief that my very presence on scene is a safety concern. In retrospect, I can admit that my “rollerskating paramedics” plan for saving time on scene was a bad idea.
First, safety is a huge concern for EMS managers. Our brothers and sisters in fire and law enforcement certainly encounter their share of hazards. But overall, EMS has higher rates of missed time and medical evaluations than both fire and police.¹ Whether it’s back-filling shifts for injured employees or the sticker shock of your updated work comp modifier, if you’re a manager it’s on your radar.
Second, I know a couple of guys who contributed to the development of this course. Greg Friese had a hand in the physical conditioning topics and audio/visual aid development. By the way, Greg, I loved the “Nobody Flying the Plane” slide! Another friend of mine, Kip Teitsort, wrote a ton of solid material on patient, practitioner, and bystander safety for the curriculum. Knowing that a couple of my friends worked on this course made me feel like part of the “in” crowd. That feeling will probably fade when I go to the conference mixer later, but I’ll enjoy it for now.
Third, it’s a lot of information I can put to use immediately. I’ve developed an interesting characteristic over the years that I didn’t have as an EMS Newbie. I call it Spidey-sense, but most biologists would call it, “self-preservation instinct.” This valuable quality is generally lacking in toddlers, bull riders, and many of the patients we transport after 1:00 AM. It’s the ability to predict and avoid incidents that are likely to be un-good for everyone in splattering distance. Field experience can’t be bestowed in an 8 hour course, but simple exercises and tactics to keep us safe can go a long way toward self-preservation. My field experiences regarding scene safety have taught me a lot, but I love courses like this for new information on the topic.
If you haven’t taken the time to check out the curriculum, take a minute to check it out. From the NAEMT website: “NAEMT’s EMS Safety course aims to promote a culture of EMS safety and to help reduce the number and intensity of injuries incurred by EMS practitioners in carrying out their work. It helps increase students’ awareness and understanding of EMS safety standards and practices and develop their ability to effectively implement them. EMS Safety is the first national and most comprehensive education program of its kind that teaches techniques on how to best achieve safety on the job.”²
On the whole, this offering of NAEMT’s EMS Safety course was great. I give a lot of credit to Taz Meyer and Jim Fingerhut of St. Charles County Ambulance District (SCCAD) for their polished delivery. SCCAD employees and apparatus can be seen throughout the manual, so they were intimately familiar with the materials. The course manual is straightforward without much theoretical fluff, and the audio/visual aids are dynamic. Best of all, there are relatively few barriers to entry for instructors wanting to deliver this course in-house. Unlike many classes that require providers to go through another instructor course before teaching, NAEMT Safety Course participants can go straight on to delivering the course after passing the provider course.
Just as listening to an anesthesiologist’s lecture won’t make us airway superheroes, attending this safety course won’t make us safer. EMS providers become better at managing airways by attending great training, having access to the best equipment, and creating a culture of high performance. We, as an industry, will become safer when providers accept personal responsibility for creating a safety culture. This same idea is the final slide in the course…
“The Next Steps are YOURS.”
1. Suyama, Joe, Jon Rittenberger, P. Daniel Patterson, and David Hostler. “Comparison of Public Safety Provider Injury Rates.” Prehospital Emergency Care 13.4 (2009): 451-55.
2. “EMS Safety.” NAEMT. Web. 16 Apr. 2012. <http://www.naemt.org/education/EMSSafety/EMSSafety.aspx>.