Some of the most remarkable medical advances of the last 40 years have been happening not in our clinics and hospitals, but in our living rooms and bedrooms, our roadsides and back yards.
When you called an ambulance in 1966 a painted station wagon might show up, stocked with a few bandages, perhaps a tank of oxygen, and staffed by committed and courageous volunteers who nevertheless were responding to serious emergencies with little or no training. It was in that year of ’66 that an important government report came out, which found that soldiers on the battlefields of Vietnam had a better chance of surviving critical injuries than families on the highways of California.
That was the start of the Advanced Life Support system of pre-hospital care in the United States, and the birth of a new title of caregiver, paramedic. That initial program to train first responders to start IVs and manage difficult airways in trauma victims has evolved into the equivalent of a roving emergency room, operated by a medical professional who can now administer more than 30 medications, working under 75 protocols, everything from pain management to cardiac pacing to neonatal intubation.
Not only must a paramedic recognize the type and severity of irregular heart rhythm that’s presented, but she must also know the patient’s history, the medicines prescribed, the roles of associated symptoms, so that when she transmits that EKG to the hospital, and picks up the phone to consult with the physician, she’ll know the questions to ask and answers to give, as well as the indications and contraindications and side effects of the five different medications available to treat the condition.
This is why a typical paramedic’s education begins with 1,200 hours of college training, the equivalent of an Associate’s Degree. And the learning doesn’t stop there. Every year each advanced life support technician must complete skills testing and education credits, preparing for a full recertification that takes place every three years. But it’s not the education alone that makes a good paramedic, it’s the practice. To be competent at this high level of responsibility, she must use these skills frequently; she must make this practice her profession.
The four paramedics now regularly working and volunteering in Johnsburg all have second jobs, as paramedics. Our two Advanced Life Support Critical Care Techs also work and volunteer for other agencies, and one of them, Holly Steady, hopes to go to paramedic school in the fall. Johnsburg EMS would also like to congratulate our Junior Member, Jonathan Ordway, who’s been accepted to the paramedic program at Herkimer County Community College.