Vardaman: How you can thank your local paramedics
May 15-21 is the 48th annual National EMS week. Authorized by President Gerald R Ford in 1974, this week is meant to acknowledge and celebrate Emergency Medical Services professionals.
I’d like you to join me in celebrating the hard-working and dedicated paramedics and EMTs of Eagle County Paramedic Services, which is the first and only paramedic service in our community. Founded in 1982 — and celebrating our 40th anniversary this summer — we are a Colorado special district formed to meet the needs of a population that has grown from 13,000 at inception to more than 55,000 full-time residents in 2020 and more than 120,000 seasonal residents and visitors. We have five response stations and seven 24-hour paramedic crews from Gypsum to Vail to ensure that our community receives efficient and high-quality out-of-hospital care.
We’d like to remind the community that EMS isn’t simply defined by lights and sirens, car crashes or ambulance rides.
EMS is a dangerous profession. Personnel respond to violent scenes and hazardous environments, putting their lives at risk. EMS workers have been on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting themselves at risk while waging war on an invisible enemy.
The full portrait of what EMS does, and who we are, is complex and diverse.
Paramedics are career professionals that go through up to a two-year rigorous educational program, a hospital internship and a 500-hour field internship just to get initially certified. Education continues throughout your career with regular required training and classes.
Following that, most of our field staff pursue additional specialty training. We have paramedics with more than 40 years of experience at Eagle County Paramedic Services as well as EMTs who are just starting their careers. We’re also committed to providing the opportunity for our EMTs to further their education by sponsoring their enrollment in paramedic school and supporting them while they’re in school.
We responded to 5,479 total calls in 2021. That included 4,330 911 emergency calls, 604 community paramedic responses and 119 behavioral health crisis calls. In addition to 911 emergency response, we have a very busy interfacility transfer program that transports more than 500 patients a year from Vail Health to other specialty centers throughout the state. Our critical care paramedics provide high-level medical care as patients are transported: It’s like having an ICU bed on wheels.
Our community paramedics are on duty 24 hours a day, responding to behavioral health crises and providing medical home visits to help our citizens manage acute and chronic health conditions. Our community paramedics partner with many other community agencies — including Your Hope Center, Vail Health, MIRA Bus, law enforcement and other health care providers — to keep our community members safe and healthy at home.
We have other specialized teams including wildland fire paramedics and EMTs; law enforcement-certified, tactical paramedics (SWAT); ski patrol paramedics and helicopter hoist-certified paramedics in support of Vail Mountain Search & Rescue. We collaborate with Vail Health, Colorado Mountain Medical, Valley View Hospital and other health care providers in the valley. We work alongside both Vail and Beaver Creek ski patrols. We also work with six fire departments, three police departments, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and more.
We hope you never need to meet us professionally, but if you do, please know that we are standing by 24 hours a day to provide skilled, professional and compassionate health care to Eagle County.
This week, I encourage you to reach out to your EMTs and paramedics and say thank you to this much deserving team. You can contact us on our website, on Facebook, Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org to send them a quick note of thanks.
Steve Vardaman is the operations manager for Eagle County Paramedic Services.