By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

There is a prevailing misconception that firefighters, first responders, and EMTs are young and strong enough to physically lift patients without being injured.

“Even a 100-pound person is just too heavy for a person to lift up and down stairs and that sort of thing,” says Susan Gallagher, PhD, RN, a bariatric nurse, safe patient-handling consultant, and speaker. “There is an opportunity for vendors to create tools specifically for EMS. But even more importantly, there has to be a change in the way we perceive firefighters and EMTs.”

It turns out, as with nurses, not all of them are young and strong, and some of them are fighting chronic pain.

“You talk to a 60-year-old firefighter and they are pretty miserable physically — just like the nurses — because they have used their bodies excessively over time,” she says. “We need to change that paradigm. EMTs are there to protect us, but they need to protect themselves as well.”

Among the strategies under discussion is performing an initial assessment of the environment to look for potential hazards for trips and falls.

“We know the hazard assessment has to happen quickly, but it has to happen before the firefighters enter the facility, the home, or where they have been called to,” she says.