The COVID-19 pandemic seems far from over, and it’s clear that this crisis is leaving its mark on the modern healthcare system. The disease has exposed the inefficiencies in the United States healthcare infrastructure and caused many healthcare workers to push themselves to exhaustion, with many burning out and leaving their respective professions in the process for positions that offer better pay and less health risk.
Like other healthcare workers, emergency medical service (EMS) providers have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 right from the start. Many beginner technicians started their careers in the midst of the health crisis, finding themselves unable to keep up with the high demand for emergency services. Dealing with the multiple waves and strains of the virus was a harrowing experience for many, but it has also imparted a lot of practical lessons to EMS professionals. Here are some of the lessons that EMS providers can pick up from their past experiences in dealing with the pandemic.
Pandemics Require an Organized Response
Not a lot of people expected the coronavirus to become a global concern in such a short amount of time, so it’s understandable that many people and organizations were caught unprepared by the pandemic. Now that we know that a disease can spread so fast and affect so many people, we should take steps to prepare for similar crises in the future.
EMS organizations, in particular, should invest in EMS computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems before they experience another surge in the demand for emergency medical services. This solution is central to the smooth and efficient operation of their organization, as it enables them to schedule and monitor their teams in the field with maximum efficiency. This solution also helps EMS providers gather all necessary information about the cases they are handling, making it easy for the team to focus on saving lives without getting bogged down by paperwork. Acquiring an ambulance CAD system such as the one offered by software developer Traumasoft is absolutely essential for EMS providers who want to make a lot of difference in their community in times of crisis.
Telemedicine is Part of the Healthcare System’s Future
The pandemic has severely restricted the number of people that medical facilities can accommodate. This, and the fear of catching the virus, has prevented a lot of patients from physically seeing their doctors and getting checked for various other illnesses. Unfortunately, because of this, the condition of many of the patients deteriorate before they are even checked by medical professionals.
Improving patient care can be achieved by utilizing telemedicine, which is already in use in some areas of healthcare. This technology can help EMS providers prioritize which patients require immediate assistance, distinguish emergent from non-emergent cases, and provide a higher level of care if the patient is located far from a medical facility. In times of crisis, having these capabilities can help an EMS organization prevent the unnecessary use of medical transportation services and reduce the strain on the healthcare system.
Implementing Evidence-Based Public Health Learnings Is Critical
The lack of personal protective equipment was a serious problem at the start of the pandemic, and prolonged contact with infected patients put the health and safety of EMS providers at risk. Now that it’s common knowledge that wearing PPE can suppress the spread of the virus, EMTs should make an effort to protect themselves adequately when on the job. There should be protocols in place for the proper donning and disposal of PPEs, and EMS organizations should make every effort to provide their personnel with sufficient supplies of PPE components.
Additionally, EMS providers should make an effort to stress to their team members the importance of getting vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines have already been available for several months now, and while many remain concerned about the safety of these vaccines, U.S. health experts have always underscored the fact that the risks of not getting a jab far outweighs the risks of getting side effects from a vaccine. Getting vaccinated can also go a long way in terms of protecting colleagues and patients who are not able to get vaccinated themselves due to existing medical conditions.
Patience and Scientific Education for Skeptics
Sadly, the large number of deaths and disabilities caused by the global disease is not enough to convince everyone to exercise sufficient care when interacting with other people. This is true for patients as well as a small portion of healthcare workers like EMTs, nurses, and doctors. Whenever possible, take some time to educate others and respond to questions from patients and colleagues with patience and compassion. Knowing the experiences of someone who has worked on the frontlines can perhaps help other people see that the threat of this virus is real.
Create Better Workplace to Retain Staff
A lot of medical facilities and EMS organizations dealt with staff shortages since the pandemic, and the situation is critical now. The lack of manpower has contributed greatly to cases of exhaustion and burnout among healthcare professionals. Now more than ever, healthcare workers should make an effort to provide ways to create a better workplace in order to retain staff. Instead of sweeping staffing and workplace issues under the rug, these challenges should be discussed and plans should be put in place to mitigate them.
EMS providers need not wait for a new pandemic to hit before they can apply these lessons. If they leverage these hard-earned insights the right way, then EMTs and EMS organizations can put themselves in a better position to help their communities in the fight against the current and all future pandemics.