As the fire service celebrates EMS Week May 15-21, 2022, this year’s theme, “Rising to the Challenge” could not be more appropriate. During the past year (and the year before), we provided COVID testing to hundreds of thousands of members of our communities. We vaccinated whole segments of our populations including homebound, underserved, and school-aged children, not to mention our fellow fire, EMS, and law enforcement members. Our scope of practice was changed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to include these new duties. Public recognition followed.
Rising to the challenge included forging new relationships with Public Health, hospitals, and our local governments, all of whom developed new understandings of the capabilities of EMS. In many communities, our role became critically embedded in COVID response.
To continue educating EMS providers, we had to rapidly evolve EMS education to incorporate remote learning and even remote proctoring of certification exams in our members’ homes. Clinical rotations at hospitals all but came to an end, necessitating huge leaps in development of simulation, a challenge that EMS educators continue to rise-up to meet.
Our world this past year took a break from influenza and active shooters while much of society quarantined in their homes. As we emerge from the throes of a two-year long pandemic, our world looks very different. Not only has our scope of practice changed, but so has our value to our communities. Rising to the challenges of the pandemic has put us in a very different light. Citizens look to us not only in times of crisis, but for COVID test kits, vaccinations, PPE, and wellness checks when they fear going to a healthcare setting.
While many businesses, public utilities, governments, and citizens suffered tremendously as a result of the pandemic, EMS rose to the challenge, emerging stronger and better. Our new image is one that positions us more holistically in the communities we serve and represents a better understanding of the skills and abilities we have long possessed, now finally better understood and appreciated.