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National EMS Week

National EMS (Emergency Medical Service) Week is celebrated during the third week of May each year. This year’s celebration occurs during the week of May 19-25. The theme for National EMS Week is “Honoring Our Past, Forging Our Future”.

“This year’s theme is highly relevant. The population of folks involved in the EMS world are aging. In honoring our past, let’s recognize the people started in EMS over the past 50 years are now beyond the age of retirement.”

That’s according to Kelby Eck, the CCMH Director of Emergency Services.

“One of the biggest challenges EMS faces for the future is recruitment. While the founders of EMS are  handing it down to the next generation, that next generation is fewer and farther between.”

A native of Kiron, Eck graduated from Denison High School and joined the Iowa National Guard.

“I served in the Army Reserve for six years before I went on to go to school. After earning my nursing degree, I was a critical care nurse for about five years. From there, I worked as an emergency room nurse and became acquainted with EMS.  Since I accepted the position of Director of Emergency Services, I’ve gotten very involved in EMS and ER nursing. “

According to Eck, being a part of EMS means that you’re part of something greater than yourself.

“EMS, at its core, is helping others. Most people involved in EMS are looking for a way to either volunteer their time or continue their education or both. Through EMS, you are moving forward in your abilities and in your passion to help someone else in their time of need. For me, it’s an honor to serve. It’s very rewarding and exciting. It’s something that once you begin that path, you never get off of it.”

Another challenge faced by EMS is being asked to do more now than they ever have.

“It’s not just a challenge of finding the people. I think it’s the challenge of training our staff and volunteers. We have some great partnerships with area colleges at Western Iowa Tech, (WIT), Iowa Western, and Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).  All of those institutions have great training programs. Fantastic emergency medical technicians (EMTs), fantastic paramedics come out of those programs, but getting somebody to commit to becoming an EMT or Paramedic is difficult, especially when you have bills to pay, you’ve got a family at home. If it’s really something you want to do, even though it can be expensive to achieve, it’s something CCMH and other organizations can financially help with.”

What about EMS provider wellness and mental health?

“EMS providers face some of the worst scenarios you can imagine. Whether that’s vehicle accidents, people with medical emergencies, or individuals who have forgotten to take care of themselves. Over the past 10 to 15 years, EMS has shifted focus for mental health onto themselves. There are different types of support networks. For instance, peer support is a huge one. There is a large community of EMS providers who talk to each other. These are people who have been there, they’ve seen it, and they know how to get through it. We also have organized resources like critical incident stress management programs. Using evidence-based practices, it helps EMS providers and ER nurses who have experienced traumatic situations get through those incidents and come out better on the other side.”

Eck notes the duties for EMS providers in medical care are expanding.

“Fifty years ago, if you were a part of EMS, you jumped on an ambulance when the 911 call went out and you took care of a patient. End of story. Today, that’s only the beginning of what EMS touches. Along with responding to 911 calls, you’re also assisting in the emergency room. In fact, most emergency rooms across the nation, staff with paramedics and EMTs. Paramedics and EMTs also work in urgent care facilities, medical clinics, and home health settings. The roles for paramedics and EMTs are big and only getting bigger.”

What kind of words of encouragement would you give to EMS personnel?

“EMS is one of the most rewarding and honorable career paths you can go down. In every poll or survey,  EMS professionals are one of the most respected, one of the most honored positions in a community. If you want a job field that’s rewarding, EMS is definitely the way to go. There’s a lot of work involved, and you need to make sure your education is absolutely up to date. You’ll make some instant decisions that could be life-changing. When you know you’ve done everything you can and things turn out great, there’s nothing more rewarding than that.”

To celebrate EMS Week, CCMH will have an ambulance on display in the Denison Hy-Vee parking lot on Wednesday, May 22 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“Bring your kids out. Bring your family out. You’ll get a chance to meet a few of our EMTs and paramedics. Take a look inside the truck and see what these folks do for a living every day, day in and day out. I think it’s a really great event for a couple of different reasons. One, it takes the mystery out of emergency services. Second, if we ever hope to recruit more people into this service, we have to be able to show the community what it’s like, what it’s about and why it’s a great career to pursue.”

To learn more about becoming a paramedic, EMT, or first responder, Eck says he is happy to field those questions and provide the answers. “I would love to talk to anybody who’s got questions about it. Give me a call at CCMH at 712-265-2500, just ask for Kelby. To talk somebody about volunteering your time at any of the smaller agencies in our Crawford County communities, you can contact any of those volunteer agency members – Kiron, Dow City, Manilla, Deloit, Charter Oak. They’ll help put you in the right direction, nobody will turn you away.”



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