What paramedics want you to know

Veteran paramedic answers questions about the service he provides to the public.

Paramedic, Dan Farrow, EMT-P, MESI, Mecosta County, Michigan
Paramedic, Dan Farrow, EMT-P, MESI, Mecosta County, Michigan

One of the first perceptions the general public has of a paramedic comes by way of a blaring siren. And although we hear a siren in the distance we don’t often know whose siren it is, police, fire trucks or an ambulance? One thing is clear, the presence of an ambulance and paramedic ‘on-the-scene’ brings complete assurance that quality medical care is being immediately administered.

Undoubtedly, paramedics are hardworking individuals. They work long shifts and must be ready and prepared for a full range of medical emergencies, crisis or natural disasters. Most of us will experience our first conversation with a paramedic under an emergency situation either for ourselves or a loved one.

What should the public know about emergency medical services? Michigan State University Extension asked paramedic, Dan Farrow, MESI of Mecosta County, a veteran paramedic for 39 years about what it means to be a paramedic and what he recommends the public know about (EMS) emergency medical services.

In Mecosta County (population 43,108) the call volume is 5, 000 calls a year or 12-13 calls per day. Farrow says that’s typical of an EMS model for a population this size.

According to Farrow the most important job of a paramedic is to provide life-saving stabilizing measures to sick or injured persons in the pre-hospital setting. The work paramedics do is vastly different than what is depicted on television and outcomes aren’t always good despite heroic efforts. Farrow believes that the main service of a paramedic is providing safe, timely transportation of the sick and or injured to a place of appropriate care.

Paramedics and emergency services also work with other agencies when disasters strike. Communities can best be prepared by making sure they have a family disaster plan, Farrow ads to remember your pets.

EMT’s and Paramedics, is there a difference?

In Michigan everyone has to have a license that operates on scene. The driver may be a paramedic or an EMT basic. The state requires the person with the highest level of license attend the patient. The different levels are:

  • Medical First Responder - Entry Level basic procedures would include splints and administering oxygen.
  • Paramedic - A specially trained medical technician licensed to provide a wide range of emergency services (as defibrillation and the intravenous administration of drugs) before or during transportation to a hospital
  • EMT Basic- A specially trained medical technician certified to provide basic emergency services (as cardiopulmonary resuscitation) before and during transportation to a hospital.

Medical Emergencies can happen to anyone at any time. Calling for an ambulance can affect most people with panic, confusion, fear, and a terrible sense of urgency and helplessness. Farrow states, the best thing a person can do to prepare is to have a list of your current medications, your allergies, and a brief summary of your medical history. Make sure family members know where to find it.

Farrow says, He recommends every home have a “File of Life”. The file of life is a small template where you list medical information and contact information in case you are unable to communicate or if there is a non-life threatening emergency having it filled out and for non-life threatening emergencies. These can be placed magnetically on your refrigerator.

Farrow also adds, to help expedite a paramedic at the call, get rid of that old medicine! Keep only on hand your current prescriptions. Old medication loses its effectiveness over time; hanging on to medications because you may want to save yourself money is not the right thing to do. Take old medications you no longer need to a medical disposal site in your area. 

Don’t ever let the fear of cost be the reason you don’t get help in an emergency.

  • Anytime there is a medical emergency that scares you, that may be the time to think about calling 911.
  • Consider how timely you could get yourself to the ER. If you truly feel that you could get yourself into the ER safely than that might be an option. Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to the ER under an emergency situation.
  • Situations that most always warrant calling paramedics are, when you have a broken bone,chest pains or diabetic influences. Under these situations you should not drive yourself or go to the doctor’s office but call 911.

In closing Farrow says, hold your local EMS accountable for providing quality and timely service. Make sure the tools and funding exist to provide continued quality service. And when in doubt call us; you are never bothering us, every call is important and part of our job!

Did you find this article useful?