Tuesday, May 19, 2020

It's Safety Tuesday! EMS Week 2020

Welcome to EMS week.
It's Safety Tuesday!

This week marks the 46th annual EMS week. Authorized by President Ford in 1974, we carry on the tradition to celebrate our EMS providers and the important work you do in our nation's communities. We are saddened that EMS week cannot look like normal but are determined to celebrate you nonetheless.  

Generally, "Safety" and "EMS" triggers specific ideas; safe driving, MVCs, roadside traffic, agitated patients and family members, electrical wires and the infamous "BSI scene safety" blurted out at the beginning of every EMS practical exam. We all know and (mostly) respect these tangible, visible safety hazards. We are well trained to look for certain "invisible" hazards as well- CO, HS, asphyxiants and conducted current.

Some invisible hazards are harder to recognize.

Safety has a whole new meaning these days. Mental health and fatigue, burnout and complacency are perhaps the most dangerous things facing out providers these days. Close to home we have our own epidemic of our own- suicide and substance abuse amongst EMS providers. 

The COVID pandemic has stressed and stretched our already taxed personnel to  the limit. We face an unseen, menacing hazard on every call, in every station and even in the grocery store. A pervasive threat that has forced us to change routines and forgo much of what we use to relieve stress and decompress. Now, more than ever, mental health must be at the forefront of our agendas. 

In many ways, this part of the pandemic is even tougher than the beginning, We have settled begrudgingly into new routines with no real end in sight. Even the much awaited "reopening"has been painfully, albeit rightfully, slow. We are about to mark the much-awaited beginning of summer, Memorial Day Weekend, with few beaches, few vacations and none of the large gatherings and details that mark the summer months. Life has become a grind, with no real end in sight. 

We acknowledge this is REALLY hard.
We take comfort that we are all in this together
We look forward to the other side

One thing we DO have is each other, our families and friends. For many, the silver lining of this pandemic has been more, and perhaps more meaningful, time as home. Time to think about goals, plans and projects. As much as we mourn the loss of "now" we can and should look forward to later, when things DO return to normal with cookouts and beach days, when bars and gyms are open. This epidemic has been hard at home and hard at work. Some of us are barely treading water at home and look in disbelief at Instagram posts of new patios and baked bread. Some of us are enjoying time to work on projects and hobbies. Everyone has a different COVID-normal, and that is perfectly OK. We need to acknowledge and celebrate both things- putting in new gardens AND simply making it through a tough day of homeschooling. 

Your overall response to all of this has been remarkable. Despite the threat, you have showed up to work, day in and out, and done the job you always do- serving the community and protecting public safety. 

In the middle of the true, gritty, meat of this pandemic it is SO important not to become complacent. Be vigilant with PPE and hand hygiene. Wear your masks. Social distance. Keep a broad differential when evaluating patients- not all chest pain and SOB is COVID. 

Most importantly, keep an eye out for your partners and colleagues. Please reach out, every day, to at least a few of your co-workers. If you are struggling, don't go it alone. 
There is ALWAYS someone ready to talk. 

Thank you for all you do!

Please see below for some excellent resources from NAEMSP

An oldie but a goodie EMS week post on sleep and fatigue:

Strategies for EMS of address sleep health/fatigue during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
The University of Pittsburgh Department of Emergency Medicine EMS Shift Work Project highlights a few evidence-based strategies for improving sleep health and intended for EMS clinicians and other first responders who must work extended shifts, extra shifts or overtime during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Emotional Coping Toolkit for Healthcare Workers:
The Toolkit for Emotional Coping for Healthcare Staff (TECHS) is a set of concrete tools healthcare staff can use during these challenging times. It provides guidance and practical tips for supporting colleagues, as well as a stand-alone presentation of the toolkit that can be viewed by groups or individuals.

EMS System for Metro Oklahoma City & Tulsa provider update on the mental health impact of COVID on EMS providers: