Here are 5 ways to celebrate EMS Week

By celebrating Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week, your ED can improve rapport with paramedics and realize other benefits, says John A. Brennan, MD, FAAP, FACEP, chair of the EMS committee of the Dallas-based American College of Emergency Physicians and director of EMS and pediatric emergency medicine at Saint Barnabas Health Care System in Livingston, NJ.

"The closer your relationship is with the group, the better your patient care will be," Brennan says. "Find ways to recognize them for a very important contribution and say to them, You make a difference.’"

EMS Week will be celebrated May 14 to 20. Your participation sends a message that you feel emergency medical services are a vital link in the continuum of health care, says Brennan. "Even if it’s 20 degrees outside and 2 a.m. and they have to transport a patient down four flights of stairs, they do it."

EMS Week recognizes those who provide care seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and often go beyond their physical capabilities in unsafe conditions, he says. "It has been clearly shown that when the EMS system works well, there is an improvement in morbidity and mortality."

Last year, EDs celebrated EMS week in a variety of ways, including local paramedics and EMTs visiting grade schools to educate children about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, hosting events honoring paramedics who saved lives, having ambulance and equipment displays so children and adults can see emergency equipment firsthand, and holding health fairs and demonstrating a "mock" disaster, Brennan notes.

Those activities benefit the ED directly because emergency medicine is being promoted and patients can learn about what to do in an emergency, he says. Here are some ways your ED can participate, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians:

o Invite paramedics, dispatchers, emergency physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and others to participate in your event.

In addition to recognizing the services of EMS providers, you give the public the opportunity to learn about the EMS system. Consider holding a "Meet the Lifesavers" open house or an "EMS Awareness" fair.

o Ask organizations, local businesses, or other area EMS systems to sponsor your event.

Combining resources is a great way to host an EMS Week event and attract new audiences. Local businesses often are eager to help by sponsoring equipment displays, offering door prizes, providing free blood pressure clinics, or running articles in their employee newsletters and ads in local newspapers. You can ask retail businesses to run banners in their ads or distribute circulars during EMS Week.

o Target groups such as parents, local businesses, or seniors to join your celebration.

Think about the concerns and interests of specific audiences and how best to reach them. Many participants look at EMS Week as an opportunity to offer special programs to their communities or to provide services such as free safety inspections, glucose screenings, and medical identification programs that allow health care providers to identify patients with special needs. Distribute educational fact sheets on topics such as emergency etiquette, summer safety for children, or strokes. (See sample EMS fact sheet on emergency etiquette and strokes, inserted in this issue.)

o Pitch your events to local media.

Contact news directors at your local newspapers and television stations far ahead of time and ask them to run public service announcements on your upcoming EMS Week activities. Invite them to provide coverage of your open house, fair, or carnival. Ask them to assign reporters to participate in an ambulance ride-along and/or write a feature on "A Day in the Life of a Lifesaver." Also, contact the editorial departments about running editorials on your EMS Week activities.

o Target activities to your unique regional needs.

By looking for your community’s areas of greatest need, you’ll give your EMS Week activities more focus and stronger impact. For example, if you live in a rural area, farm safety might be a local concern. Arizona might address forest fire prevention, and Michigan might offer a class in boating safety. Last year, an EMS organization in California put together an earthquake preparedness kit.

John A. Brennan, MD, FAAP, FACEP, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Emergency Department, Old Short Hills Road, Livingston, NJ 07039. Telephone: (973) 322-8400. Fax: (973) 328-5807. E-mail: jkmmpp@ aol.com.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offers a planning kit with materials to assist with local promotions. The kits include clip art, logos, an Emergency Medical Services Week poster, statistics, and a specialty item catalog. To order a free packet, call ACEP’s Customer Service Department at (800) 798-1822, extension 6. For more than 15 packets, payment for postage is required.