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'Volunteer' EMTs gave great service to Fremont County, and rural areas are worse without
Aug 8, 2013 - Lori Davidson, Pavillion
As a former "volunteer" intermediate EMT for 11 years in the Kinnear/Pavillion area, I take great offense to the letter written by Brian Spears on July 10.
First of all, we are in a rural area with greater distances to Riverton and Lander. Second, we have taken and passed the same classes and tests as everybody else in the state and fulfilled our hours to recertify as required. We attended trainings, classes and rode extra shifts on the ambulance code "for free" to be capable of handling the many different calls Fremont County emergency management service handles. And we have to pass a background check to receive our card.
When I first started out here, I had three amazing immediate EMTs to learn from. They were great teachers, and level of care we had out in this area was great. I would not have blinked an eye to have to treat any of my family members. They are all gone now.
For 11 years I received some of the worst calls, and responded to my house at all hours of the day and night, whether I had to work the next day or not. I can show you an entire bulletin board and scrapbook of thank-you notes and letters written to us out here for our service in the fire hall.
The volunteer fireman and other basic EMTs served as a great team out here for our community, and I can guarantee you that our response times were far better than Riverton's. Would you rather have trained "volunteer" EMTs show up in 10-20 minutes or wait 45 minutes to an hour out of Riverton or Lander. Because that is the response time out here now.
We used to have three ambulances and crews out here in the Pavillion, Kinnear and Crowheart areas and handled about 200 calls a year. Now, only Kinnear has an ambulance, but no one to staff it because all the volunteers have been run off.
Training hours are a huge issue if you have another job and family. It can be overwhelming at times, especially if you are expected to do all your training every week in Fremont County only.
I think the hours of recertification have been increased in the last five years, but we used to have to do 60 hours in two years. There are, conferences held every year throughout the state, or you can get 16-24 hours in your book in one weekend. They are the same trainings every EMT in the state has to do to be recertified. But the powers that be wanted all training done in Fremont County in either Riverton or Lander.
There are some things that have to be trained here, such as communications, and the use of our specific equipment on our ambulances.
Nobody had a problem with these trainings. But not being allowed to use trauma conferences or you could get a lot of basic hours in one weekend was a huge issue with the outline community volunteers because we had other jobs and families.
The issue of professionalism came up as we would respond from work or from home at all hours. I can guarantee you that the people who called for help didn't give one whites to what we were wearing so long as we were there to help. We did have shirts and jackets and hats to put on when we responded. If you are calling for help you're probably at a low point in your life. You are not going to judge the help that shows up.
If only basic EMTs could respond, and it was a call requiring advanced life support, they would be the first call for extra help and usually meet en route.
It's sure funny how that system worked for so many years, but because of training issues with management, it made it impossible to keep up, so some people just said forget it and dropped their cards.
Brian Spears stated he has only been an EMT for two and half years. I can tell you that he will have situations come up that will not run according to protocol, because every call is different. I bet it would sure be nice if he had a season "volunteer" there to help him through it. Even after 11 years, I still had calls that blew me away and were never handled the same way twice because of extenuating circumstances.
You truly think that you have enough experience with two and half years to handle situations better than "volunteers"? Your letter about the volunteer level of care was totally out of line. Are you going to say that our EMT that has been in Lysite for longer than most of our new EMTs have been alive does not give the same level of care even though she does the same level of training as every EMT in the state? I don't think so.
We are all human beings, and mistakes will be made no matter how much training you have. It happens in every aspect of life.
How the volunteers were treated by this now-former administration was what caused this whole fiasco now. Years of this has landed FCEMS in its present state. I understand that an administration has to be tough, have a backbone, and follow and set certain precedence, but you also have to have your employees' respect.
There are some good things that came out of this administration, such as the level of equipment we carry an ambulance is at the new stations. But the way people were handled in the training issues is the reason you no longer have coverage in Kinnear, Pavilion, Shoshoni, Dubois and Jeffrey City. I bet now that the director has stepped down, there will be about 50 volunteers coming
out of the woodwork to help, and they will have the same level of training and level of certification that the full-time EMTs have. Some are basic and some more intermediate level. As I said before, would you rather wait 10-20 minutes or 45 minutes to an hour, because that's the difference between life and death out in a rural community. How fast can you get help?
The commissioners have had several exit interviews with former EMTs about problems with the administration and how the EMTs were being treated, but nothing happened. Maybe they just thought it was sour grapes. We lost some really amazing EMTs in this county. I personally talked with a commissioner after I left if CEMS and was asked to do my exit interview, but after seeing the way the others went, why waste my time?
Many more EMTs who left FCEMS right after I did refused to do their interviews too. Hence the reason full-time EMTs had to be hired to fill the holes left on the crews. I loved taking care of my community, and I miss it every day, as well as the people who were part of my crews.
I learned four things being an EMT:
1. If it can go wrong, it will. Murphy's Law
2. The good orientation people are the ones who get hurt or killed, not the drunk or stoned idiot who caused it.
3. There will always be someone who will complain.
4. No matter how hard you try, you can't cure stupid.
I also learned a lot of good things too. The biggest one was, after 11 years of service with the best fireman and EMTs in the Kinnear, Pavillion and Crowheart areas, I truly live in an amazing community, and I know they were thankful to have this "volunteer" service out here to help them, and they would love to have us back.