National EMS Week: Where Emergency Care Begins
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

National EMS Week: Where Emergency Care Begins

Every year, 11 emergency medical services (EMS) response agencies in our region bring over 5,000 people in need of emergency care to SVHC. In addition, they respond to numerous calls that either don’t require emergency transport or, on the other extreme, require taking patients to a facility with care that SVHC does not provide. The individuals who respond to those calls at any hour of any day are truly the frontline of healthcare. Without question, their choices and actions determine an individual’s outcome long before they reach the hospital.  

As this last week of May is National EMS Week, it seems appropriate to share a bit about the challenges and opportunities related to EMS in our community.

Like many other businesses and services, EMS agencies across the country are facing critical staffing shortages. The agencies serving the local community in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York are no exception.

While the level of cooperation among our regional agencies is exceptional and we regularly fill in the gaps for each other but when one rescue team is occupied with a call and another call in their area comes in, wait times for an ambulance can—and often do—take longer than desired.

Which brings me to the opportunity that EMS provides for interested individuals.

Every agency of every size currently has training programs and open positions to fill. Depending upon the size and location of the agency, positions may be volunteer or paid.

Volunteer positions are usually basic Emergency Medical Technician roles for which the individual is trained in assessing a patient’s condition and determining if any life-threatening injuries or illnesses may be present. They’re also trained in skills including CPR, splinting, administering life-saving epinephrine for allergic reactions, oxygen administration, and even delivering babies.

Advanced EMT and paramedic positions are often salaried and require additional training; in many cases, the cost of training is reimbursed by the agency once completed. Examples of additional training include administering medications—including NARCAN, starting intravenous lines, providing advanced airway management, EKG interpretation for patients, and more.

Another important but often overlooked opportunity that EMS provides is community outreach.

As an example, many individuals dealing with substance use disorders (SUDs) often decline the opportunity to go to the hospital once they’re stabilized by EMS. While EMS always respects their wishes, they do take the moment to make sure the individual and those with them are aware of the resources and services available to help them address their SUD. In some cases, EMS may provide the individual or loved ones with a Harm-Reduction Bag that includes NARCAN, fentanyl test strips, a mouth guard, as well as information on treatment options and support programs.

Moments like this are as important as the ones that happen in the back of an ambulance in terms of being able to positively impact people having one of their worst days. 

If you’re interested in making a difference in the lives of others and enjoy challenging, ever-changing work days (no two days are EVER the same), I encourage you to contact the EMS in your area.

Arlington Rescue Squad

Bennington Rescue Squad

Deerfield Valley Rescue Inc

Northshire Rescue

Mount Snow Rescue (802) 464-1100 ext. 4331 or 4332

Pownal Rescue Squad 

Stratton Mountain Rescue   

Whitingham First Response

Winhall Police & Rescue

Readsboro Fire Department

Stamford Volunteer Fire Company


Sean Burns, MD, is the SVMC EMS Medical Director/District 12 Medical Advisor.

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