Tuesday, March 03, 2009

'THE' EMS Convention. No, not that one.

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the National Collegiate EMS Foundation's annual conference. As one of the mid-level volunteer administrators for the Foundation, I had an very interesting and very unique view of the event.

NCEMSF is a group formed nearly 20 years ago to address the specific needs of an under-served part of the EMS community: the scores of volunteer first-response and ambulance corps that operate on our country's college campuses. This year, nearly 900 participants traveled to our nation's Capital to attend lectures, participate in discussions, and learn how to advance each individual group's missions.

The college-based EMS group is unique. There are very few ALS providers, and the majority of providers are new to the field. Almost all are volunteers, and for many, participation on a college EMS squad is their first exposure to the field of EMS.

Campus squads also face many unique challenges: money is certainly an issue. Very few receive federal or state grants. Training is another concern: with the high level of turnover associated with graduating students, experienced providers often barely reach an level of excellence before leaving the scene. Also associated with this transient group are issues of recruitment, retention, and motivation. Myriad other challenges also stand in the way of the success of a campus EMS group.

Yet, this past weekend was inspiring. As facilitator of the skills competition, I saw providers struggle with some very challenging scenarios. Some failed miserably, others were competent, but many rose to the occasion, and probably provided care that would be unmatched elsewhere. In the ten minute time window, I was groups recognize immediately a case of possible bacterial meningitis; something I myself probably would not have done, even with my ALS qualifications and six years of experience. On the ALS competition, the rare and tricky beta-blocker overdose provided a challenge, but many treated the patient successfully.

Collegiate EMS is not really an end in itself. It is really just a beginning. A nation of healthcare providers and leaders grow out of this one-of-a-kind community. Being a part of this community and helping nurture it was a rewarding and significant personal experience. I received my start in EMS as a freshman in college back in 2003. The ability to begin to serve not just my patients, but now the next generation of EMS providers is truly special.

PS, Congratulations to my alma mater for winning this year's Collegiate EMS Organization of the Year Award!

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