When emergency medical services (EMS) clinicians go to work, they don’t know what their day will bring. They don’t know whether they will have to respond to a crash on the interstate with burn victims or help deliver a baby in the back of an ambulance.
They are with residents during the worst of times and during the best of times, Hardin County EMS Director Jamie Armstrong said.
This week marks the 45th annual EMS Week. In 1974, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS Week to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do across the nation, according to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.
Less than 10 years prior to the implementation of National EMS Week, it was President Lyndon Johnson’s Committee on Highway Traffic Safety that recommended the creation of a national certification agency to establish uniform standards for training and examination of personnel active in the delivery of emergency ambulance service.
In 1966, the National Academy of Sciences released “Accidental Death and Disability,” drawing attention to the neglected epidemic of accidental injury. The result of the recommendation was the inception of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians in 1970, according to its website.
Since that time, pre-hospital emergency medical care continually has evolved and improved. Hardin County is no exception. Armstrong said they have evolved from transport with little to no care to Basic Life Support, which includes two EMTs, and on to Advanced Life Support, which includes a paramedic on the team.
“EMS, in general, we’ve come a long way,” Armstrong said. “In the’ 70s, it was basically bandaging and driving people to the hospital quickly. ... To now, today, where we are basically an extension of the emergency department and the physicians hand.”
In Hardin County, Armstrong said Fort Knox was the first to have paramedic services. Hardin County EMS had its first paramedics on the streets in the 1980s. Armstrong said they started out with three trucks – one each in Sonora, Radcliff and Elizabethtown. Since then, they’ve grown to four trucks in Elizabethtown, two in Radcliff and one in Sonora.
They’ve also switched from gas ambulances to where the entire fleet runs on diesel.
“That allows us a little bit larger range. We routinely take patients to the University of Kentucky to Vanderbilt (University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee) to Cincinnati so we have to have the vehicular equipment to be able to meet those commands,” Armstrong said.
The ambulances, equipped with hot spots, also allow the transmission of EKGs from the cardiac monitor in the field to the hospital, where physicians in the emergency department are able to prep accordingly, he said.
Ambulances are equipped with automated CPR, which not only offers a better quality of care for the patients but makes it safer for the clinicians because they don’t have to stand up and do CPR in the moving vehicle, Armstrong said.
“They can sit down and be restrained and perform their duties,” he said.
Stretchers have changed over the years. Armstrong said the department has gone from a two-man device to powered stretchers that work on a hydraulics system. Ambulances are outfitted with a power loader, which allows EMTs and paramedics the ability to simply secure the stretcher and push a button to load the stretcher into the vehicle.
Hardin County also has been switching all of its ambulances to those that have four-wheel drive capability, Armstrong said.
“Whether it is inclement weather or someone in the field or off a main road, we can go and assist them, whereas before, we had to rely on the fire departments to help us get off road and get to the patients,” he said.
After this fiscal year, every front line truck in the fleet will be four-wheel drive except for one, he added.
Along with having the equipment to do the job, Armstrong said they have workers who care about what they do. He said you don’t take an EMS job for the money.
“It’s about getting up every morning and knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life whether it is small or large. Being there for someone in their darkest time and being there for someone in their best of times,” Armstrong said.
“For example, a death versus a birth,” he added. “I’ve actually delivered a child myself in the back of an ambulance. It is a lot. Then you are there with people that say their goodbyes. You have to tell someone that their loved one is dead.”
In 2018, Hardin County EMS responded to 17,425 calls.
The proclamation, as found on the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians website, says the emergency medical services system consists of first responders, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency medical dispatchers, firefighters, police officers, educators, administrators, pre-hospital nurses, emergency nurses, emergency physicians, trained members of the public and other out of hospital medical care providers.