For EMS to become the third arm of public safety, right alongside law enforcement and fire departments, some separation must occur.
We simply cannot all be considered first responders while existing with profit as our business model.
For example, private security companies exist for profit, fire inspectors are employed by insurance companies and fire extinguisher businesses flourish. The people employed in these positions are not first responders, nor do they expect to be considered as such.
EMS provides different services under one label. Some are dispatched for life threatening emergencies. Some do routine transports. All of us take care of people who cannot or will not take care of themselves. Only some of the available EMS professionals respond to the unpredictable 911 emergencies.
So, how do we change the public perception that EMS and the people who provide it are almost-but-not-quite first responders or on par with hospital staff?
Seperation. We are all competent providers, dedicated and caring, but we are not all the same, nor do we all want the same things from our EMS experience. There is room in EMS for people who seek nothing more than an 8-hour shift with few complications, transporting stable but unable people.
We have plenty of spots for people who enjoy transporting fragile elderly patients to and from their appointments. Plenty of people need to be taken to dialysis centers and cancer treatment centers. The need for quality healthcare professionals that are capable of transporting critically I’ll or injured people while providing proper care should not fall on the shoulders of first responders. Paramedics with skills comparable RN, PA and NP are needed for these vital roles.
By grouping all of us as EMS, our essential piece of the public safety puzzle is overlooked, and the providers pay the price.
Fire-based EMS is sometimes paid on par with the fire service employees, but often is not. Privately operated ambulance companies pay what the market dictates, quite often wages just above the minimum wage.
The industry suffers from career burnout, depression, lack of motivation and overall dissatisfaction with EMS, leading to increased injuries, excessive turnover and the inability to inspire public confidence.
The common denominator that holds EMS together is the people who respond. We are the people who provide care, professionalism and safe transport to the public, but we cannot expect to all be compensated at the same level as Fire and Police.
Some of us deserve to be on par with our colleagues who work inside the big world of healthcare, and be compensated accordingly.