Paramedics And First Responders Celebrate EMS Week And Reflect On Changes To Their Work

May 20, 2019

It's national EMS Week. President Gerald Ford designated the week 45 years ago to celebrate the importance of paramedics, ambulance staff, and other pre-hospital emergency workers.

Hospitals around the nation are holding events honoring the work of EMS staff. This includes Dr. Matt Smetana, an Associate EMS Director at MercyHealth in Rockford.  He says the profession has evolved.

Dr. Matthew Smetana is an Associate EMS Medical Director at the MercyHealth Prehospital Emergency Services Center in Rockford.
Credit Chase Cavanaugh

“In the last 20 years, we’ve seen technology vastly change the landscape of EMS," he said. "20 years ago, we didn’t have things like pulse oximeters, capnography, even glucometers, to check blood sugars on every ambulance.”

The new technology means more training for EMS personnel, but also the ability to carry out more sophisticated procedures in the field, such as ultrasounds.

Jeff Stringer is Operations Manager for Metro Medical Services, an EMS provider in the Rockford area. He says he's seen the nature of patients change since he started his career.

Jeff Stringer is Operations Manager for Metro Medical Services in Rockford.
Credit Chase Cavanaugh

“The biggest influx that we’ve seen, obviously, is the opioid crisis, and we’re very proactive with that and trying to do all we can for the patients who unfortunately try to overdose,” he said.

Other first responders say they are also  seeing more patients who receive regular care at home.