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April 26, 2016
State EMS directors discuss hot topics in rural EMS
SAN ANTONIO — Four state EMS directors shared the stage at the National Rural EMS Conference to discuss some of the more unique and pressing issues that rural EMS agencies are facing in the United States.
The Recognition of EMS Personnel Licensure Interstate CompAct is model legislation written by the National Association of State EMS Officials that would allow EMTs and paramedics to have one license that is recognized by all states that have signed the compact. REPLICA would support providers that practice across state lines, a situation many urban providers never need to consider, but one that would help some rural communities gain access to a wider array of providers.
When asked what advice they would give to rural EMS leaders the panel recognized that individuals running these agencies are balancing more than their fair share; often working full-time, being there for their family, all while managing their respective organizations. They recognized that rural EMS was created to fill a gap in care, and that this gap has only continued to grow, leading to a greater reliance on rural EMS with a shrinking level of support.
When someone in the audience asked about lowering educational standards to allow for a greater number of applicants, the panel shut down that logic immediately. Nehring recognized that this was a tempting solution to current problems, but reiterated that for EMS to move forward as a profession, "going backwards would be a big mistake." The panelists also made sure to advocate for increased educational opportunities for leaders on the non-clinical components of running an EMS organization.
After the panel Nehring and Gienapp reiterated that rural EMS has the capacity to bring lessons learned to the national conversation, and that the experiences of rural agencies could serve as learning opportunities for their urban counterparts. They also shone a light on the increasing number of hospital closures in rural areas, something of an underutilized window of opportunity for rural EMS leaders.
Memorable quotes on rural EMS
"Stop trying to be an island within ourselves … it’s a community approach."
"The more complex EMS becomes, the more competent leadership has to become."