Fire Department proud of EMTs

I was never so proud as a few nights ago when I had the honor of supervising one of our new EMTs assist in evaluating a patient. I watched her do a Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Score, apply ECG electrodes, take vital signs and obtain a blood glucose value. As I read the electrocardiograph, I watched over my glasses to witness sincere compassion. Firefighters and EMTs, especially out here on the islands, should be proud of themselves and proud of their craft.

The cost of training these volunteer EMTs, from “know-nothing civilians to healthcare professionals” is not cheap. The average on-island EMT course ends up costing about $8000 due to costs of paying instructors, textbooks, workbooks, photocopies and state authorized test proctors for both the State Written and Practical tests. Splints, bandages, electrodes, specialized curriculum development, airway devices and other medical equipment used in EMT class cost money too; and they are used extensively in the student training.

As a rough estimate, the cost per student is about $1000 each. Fortunately, the cost of the class is offset by a grant from the State through the North Region EMS and the San Juan EMS and Trauma Council. The countywide plan calls for an EMT class to be funded each year and to rotate the locations between San Juan, Orcas, Shaw and Lopez. While we can’t offset the individual training one dedicated member is going to receive, as a result of having to miss our nearly equally expensive but grant funded on-island class, it is “the right thing to do.”

It was sad and unfortunate to see that insulting cartoon of the pig carrying a ladder, sporting a dollar sign and the Fire Department caption in the Sounder.

I was offended and I hope every member of our department is too. I had to do a quick “pride check.” I’m OK.

Being an emergency responder, a lifesaver, (paid or volunteer) is special; be proud of yourself and your organization. What other person is invited into someone’s home, no questions asked, to take care of someone’s loved one during their greatest personal emergency? In some cases we actually have to delay taking them to the hospital, because they are “too sick” to go to the hospital. Oh, there is no hospital on Orcas Island, and it is snowing.

Fellow OIFD members, did I say, “Be proud of your craft and your profession?”

Patrick S. Shepler, BS, NREMT-P is Duty Officer at the Orcas Island Fire Department and President of the San Juan County EMS & Trauma Council.