Chittenden County EMS are AOK

Mr. Aidan Bundock

 Vermonters in Chittenden County are fortunate to have services that cover every town at every hour of the day. Whether it’s a first responder, rescue, fire or police department, someone will be there for you when you are in a time of need.

 The Emergency Medical Service (EMS) is a refined system that provides acute out-of-hospital care to patients with illnesses and injuries, according to the Prehospital Emergency Care textbook. The tasks required of EMS providers span from emotional support to Physiological First Aid (PFA), to full resuscitative efforts. So, how does someone become an EMS provider?  

 Christine McCarthy, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) professor at the University of Vermont and an Advanced EMT (AEMT) for over twenty-nine years, stated that her career in EMS wasn’t something she’d ever thought of doing before.

 McCarthy stated, “I had never expressed an interest in EMS. The idea of helping people like that was not on my radar, and I wouldn’t have even thought I’d be good at it.” McCarthy recalled that it was a friend who randomly signed her up, which McCarthy reflected had forever changed her life.

Images from The Citizen

 However, not everyone gets involved unexpectedly. Gavin Cote, a senior at CVU and soon to be EMT said, “I became interested in EMS around a year ago when I took my wilderness first aid class. It’s a very rudimentary class designed to help in backcountry emergencies, but after I took it, I became hooked on the idea of helping people.” Cole suggested that others can really bring out the best in oneself, and add an aspect to life that is truly fulfilling.

“I think the people that are the most successful [in EMS], who are really good at it, are people who genuinely want to do it,” stated McCarthy. Many of the EMS providers in the state are volunteers, which really shows that they do not necessarily to see the benefit of their devoted work in their EMS careers.

As McCarthy put it, “It’s so cliche, but it’s people who want to help people.”

McCarthy addressed how EMS has changed since she started and how more requirements need to be met in order to join a service. “Reference checks are done, and you actually have to go through an application process. You go through an interview process too. It’s almost like going for a job even though you aren’t getting paid at that point.” Providing medical care for patients in the prehospital setting was not as professional back then as it is today. EMS has come a long way in ensuring that the people who are in the field are the right fit.

According to McCarthy, it is essential to know that the EMS providers they are hiring have a good record and good personal skills, based off their interview. “Getting involved is not hard at all,” said Cote, with the application process fresh in his mind. Cote is in the middle of that process with Shelburne Rescue. “In district three, [Chittenden County], there are lots of services and most, if not all of them, need members constantly.” While there are members on services that have been there for years and years, there are constantly members retiring and new ones being introduced to the field.  

Nancy Myrick, an EMT for over two years, and a member of the IT tech staff at CVU, stated that EMS requires “a lot of time consuming training, and requires commitment.” Regarding this, Cote emphasized the pressure put on EMS providers, as their care for patients is a large factor in the outcome of patient health.

This, among other aspects of EMS, is intimidating to new members, explained Cote. However, he was quick to remark afterwards that the intimidation “all goes away after you start to work with a squad and really get the feel for it all.” The training and experience alleviates that pressure. Just like anything, confidence is built through practice, and every call you take gets you more comfortable with the process of a typical call. When a more critical incident occurs, the underlying protocols still remains the same, which act as a backbone that EMS providers can work from, to reduce the stress some of these situations may otherwise induce.

 Luke Barns, an AEMT and crew chief for Essex Rescue, addressed that this pressure isn’t thrown onto new members all at once. As Lauri McGivern, an AEMT for Colchester Rescue for over thirty years put it, “It has to be somebody’s first day all the time.”

 Although there are complex protocols and difficult skills to learn, new members are put on a steady path to becoming proficient in these skills, while moving at a comfortable pace. “What I found is that EMS is a really good set-up where there is always something for you to improve on, in a very structured, and easy to sift through way,” said Barns.

 Barns noted that he is someone who constantly wants to learn, and that EMS is the perfect avenue for new learning. Even though Barns has been in EMS for over four years running as the leader of his crew (Crew Chief), he said, “I still learn something new on every call.”

EMS is a great way to get involved with your community, experience situations you’d never otherwise be put in, and learn. Cote said, “you’ll see some pretty messed up stuff,” and running as an EMT, this is a part of the job. However, opposed to how EMS is portrayed in the community, this is a much smaller percentage of the calls EMS providers actually get, according to McCarthy.

“EMS is not like what you see on TV, or what you see in the news. It’s not all that glory, and it’s not saving lives everyday,” said McCarthy. “It’s not life and death every single day- It’s making a difference every single day.”

McGivern said that the calls where you just have to talk with a patient for emotional support, or check in with an elder patient and hold their hand, are often times the calls that impact the community the most. Helping others is something that anyone can do, and do so in a very impactful way through EMS, with the right motivation and training.

There are plenty of volunteer EMS providers in our community right now, many of which do so modestly. The EMS providers in our community are there for us when we are in the worst of situations, and get us to the care we need.

Chittenden County has many opportunities for younger people to join, and be an aspect of their life that brings a great sense of fulfillment, with many benefits. Younger people who are interested in EMS, medicine, and helping people for the greater good, are encouraged to talk to a service, go on a ride along, and see if EMS is right for them.