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One If by Car…Two If By Ambulance

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A recent research study that showed a greater chance of survival for those trauma patients that arrived at a trauma center by car as compared to by an ambulance certainly raised the bar for discussion that, sometimes, bordered on verbal violence! There is nothing like a threat to the very existence of EMS to bring the members of our profession out swinging!
Unfortunately, many, if not most arguments went one of two directions. The first, and most prevalent was the “it only makes sense that treatment by EMS would result in a lowered rate of mortality”. The second, and even less defensible, was little more than “I don’t believe that study” with no rational defense at all.

Many EMS responders hold to the argument that EMS is a young profession and is still finding its way. Only the second part of that statement is true. Like an adolescent, who refuses to grow up, we continue to wander around; hoping that what we do makes a difference or can be proven by “somebody”. The first part of this statement though, is a fallacy. I have to agree with my colleague and fellow Eastern Kentucky University faculty member, David Fifer that this is no longer true and should be done away with immediately!
The inability of street medics and, even more importantly, those who have the responsibility of EMS leadership to read and interpret data from research is alarming! We continue to cry out that we want to be recognized as a part of the healthcare team and yet, we don’t move toward what all of the members of this team did years ago…increasing standards that include the understanding the importance of good, consistent research!

This post will not address the findings of that study. Instead, I need to take us to the root of the problem and that is the lack of EMS understanding of what research is, how it is done and how to interpret the findings. There are resources available for those responders who want to know more about how to interpret results as well as identify a good, solid research article from one that is poorly completed.
I am proud of the fact that all of the graduates of the Eastern Kentucky University paramedic program leave with a degree. The vast majority, I would estimate over 90%, of them graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Emergency Medical Care. I make no apology for that. Our research shows that because of this, our paramedic graduates are in a leadership/management role within five years of graduation.

A key component of their education here is the requirement of a three credit hour course dedicated solely to research. Taught by well-known faculty member, Dr. Sandy Hunter, the students’ progress from little to no knowledge of how to begin research to a finished project with a poster presentation at the end of the semester. Dr. Hunter is able to reduce the fear of the research process while he guides his you along the research process.

You do not have to be seeking a degree at EKU in order to become a part of his class. A section of this course is also offered online every spring. You are able to progress through the class and get a firmer grasp on what you, as an EMS responder, should know regarding the current research that is taking place in our country today. Should you wish more information regarding this course, feel free to email me at bill.young@eku.edu.

A second resource that you should check out is brought to us by the folks over at FISDAP. Every year, in February, they host a research summit in beautiful Minneapolis Minnesota! You read that right…February in Minnesota! There is a method to their madness though. It seems to me that the timing of this summit is brilliant as who wants to spend a large amount of time outdoors when it is cold and the sun sets at 1400 in the afternoon!

Held over a weekend, the summit brings together EMS responders from around the nation and beginning last year, hosted several international paramedics. Your room and food are covered, so the only expense you have is your travel to the site. During the summit you will work with other research newbies alongside those who understand and have conducted studies for years. This is a very low key, non-threatening event to really get your feet wet to see what research is all about and to begin your first project. You can find more about his at www.fisdap.com.
The enhancement of the ability of EMS to conduct, publish and review research is imperative! There are few issues that we face that are more important. My rationale for this is that research on our profession will be conducted and published. When such studies get into the mainstream media, will you be able to explain why or why not such a finding, regarding EMS is valid? These are the people who hold your funding and thus, your future. As we move forward with this, there are three options. First, we can drive the bus by doing our own research, we can ride the bus because of research completed by others, or we can be left by the bus when EMS is shown to be too expensive and not effective.

About the author:
Dr. Bill Young began his EMS career in 1975 with a small fire department near Williamsburg, KY. They began running first responder calls long before the phrase ever existed. In addition to Kentucky, his career has taken him to Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, and Kansas. He has served as a street medic, training officer, supervisor, state regulator, and educator. Currently, he is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Department of Paramedicine at Eastern Kentucky University.  

Published on October 30, 2017

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