Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The typical day for a member of an EMS team usually ends up to be anything but typical.
“In a 24-hour shift to some in the field, it can be quite scary to sometimes quite comical,” said Berkeley County EMS PIO Chris Esdorn.
This is the third in a four-part series about what it takes to be a paramedic.
The daily routine of an EMT and Paramedic includes the inspection of the EMS van to make sure all equipment and supplies are present and accounted for, and the ambulance is in working order.
“The unit (must be) clean and ready for the next call,” Esdorn said. “The EMT also checks to ensure that batteries are charged and ready for use.”
According to Esdorn there are an approximate 3,700 pieces of equipment required on an EMS unit. “By Berkeley County standards we have the most since we don’t have a hospital in our county to utilize,” he said.
Esdorn said Berkeley County EMS Director Bob Mixter has created a high standard for the EMS service: “This EMS service is better prepared to do whatever we can. If a patient has that one-in-a-million type of problem, Berkeley County EMS can approach it and do something about it inside your living room or on the roadside. We pride ourselves on our abilities to do this.
“Our people love this job and are always eager to be of service at anytime day or night.”
Esdorn said the single greatest thing residents can do is be prepared. Emergencies can strike any day at any time and like the EMS, a patient’s best defense is emergency preparedness.
“What makes our jobs easier is anything we can learn ahead of time about a patient’s history,” Esdorn said.
Before paramedics can help patients, they need to have a brief background about the patient.
“This is sometimes hard, especially if the patient is unconscious, but medical bracelets and available family members or friends can help,” Esdorn said. “Information valuable to the paramedic is the knowledge of a patient’s history, what diseases the patient has and what kind of medicine they take daily or recently in order to provide the proper pre-hospital care.”
Esdorn offered an example, “If a patient has taken too many different medications at once, the paramedic needs to know the dosage and type of each medicine, as they may counteract each other and cause serious medical conditions. If paramedics know what to expect from a patient, quicker and better prevention and treatment can occur.”
Patient care duties performed by paramedics can range from something as simple as giving sugar to a patient suffering from insulin shock, to something as complicated as dressing and bandaging a cracked skull.
“Paramedics should be certified in basic life support, which includes CPR, automated external defibrillator and first aid training in order to provide the best care to patients,” Esdorn said. “Typical duties may involve helping and stabilizing patients with burns, frostbite, seizures, head trauma, broken bones and cardiac arrest.”
One of the most critical duties of an EMT and paramedic involves the transport of the patient from the accident site to the stretcher, the back of the EMS van and to the hospital.
“Paramedics are held responsible for the proper method of lifting and moving patients to and from vehicles to hospitals,” Esdorn said.
Improper and incorrect lifting methods could make a patient’s injuries worse.
“If a paramedic assumes a car crash victim doesn’t have neck injuries even though they do, and they fail to properly keep the patient’s head steady and strapped to the backboard, the patient could become paralyzed,” Esdorn said. “Paramedics need to be very careful when transporting patients and work together with EMTs when lifting so the patient’s weight is evenly distributed.”
Paramedics are also responsible for driving ambulances and sometimes even flying. “They need to be able to navigate roads or skies, take available shortcuts and get the patient to the hospital as quickly and as safely as possible,” Esdorn said. “Paramedics are also required to supervise EMTs, volunteers and other medical professionals on the scene of accidents.”