EMS Week is here.

President Gerald Ford is the reason EMS Week exists. In 1974, he declared its importance, and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) now carries the torch that ensures EMS professionals are not forgotten, especially during the most difficult times.

Events and celebrations for this year’s EMS Week – from May 17-23 – will undoubtedly take on new meaning. Given the current global COVID-19 pandemic, the entire EMS profession stands united on a world stage where everyone sees your bravery, hard work and dedication.

If there is a year to celebrate EMS Week, this is it.

“We had thought about changing the date to later in the year, but decided to leave it as is and focus on the EMS providers, to recognize people servicing their communities every day and to recognize those who served and lost their lives this year,” said Rick Murray, EMT-P, director of the EMS and Disaster Preparedness Department for ACEP.

For months, you’ve barely had time to grab a quick meal or much-needed sleep, let alone think about EMS Week. So we here at Distance CME want to take the time to thank first responders and your family members too.

Let’s share some ideas to help kick off this celebration.

Small celebrations matter too

Even if your agency has become strapped for time, you can still show your appreciation in small ways, whether it happens in May or later in the year.

The “EMS Strong” tagline was coined to celebrate EMS professionals at any time during the year, Murray said.

“There will be a big EMS Strong celebration later this year,” Murray said. “We are still brainstorming the idea, but will have an event because so many EMS agencies have said they cannot have the event this year in May.”

If you’re in crunch mode, it’s still important to express gratitude to frontline workers. Hospital staff can hold celebrations in a break room to thank first responders. EMS agencies can get creative by planning informal gatherings at the station.

“Hospitals can sponsor food in the break room with cold drinks, cookies and hoagies,” Murray said. “Or a BBQ (can take place) at the station where the fire chief flips burgers and gives out ‘EMS Strong’ shirts and hats.”

Public outreach

EMS Week is more than greeting colleagues at a 6-foot distance and giving “air” fist bumps.

The annual event helps expand your role in the community so you can share your knowledge and lifesaving skills. Jeremy Gassert, EMS education manager with Distance CME, suggests planning a training session or educational workshop.

“It’s an opportunity to not only get some face time with the community members, but also to provide some insight as to what the role of EMS is within the community,” he said.

Murray said another core value of EMS Week centers on sharing injury prevention tactics. “It’s more rewarding to say, ‘Wear a bike helmet, or do XYZ if you’re having these signs of a stroke,’” he said.

While it’s plenty rewarding to save lives, giving someone the knowledge to help prevent injuries or fatalities also carries meaning.

Teaching community members CPR skills saves lives, and any willing person can learn the necessary skills. Consider reaching out to local churches and youth organizations.

When someone hits the ground with chest pains and is waiting for EMS to arrive, bystanders that correctly administer CPR help paramedics buy some time, according to Murray.

“If someone does not get CPR in time, their chance of survival is slim,” he said. “Just pressing the chest saves lives.”

EMS Week daily themes

This year, beginning with May 18, five days have themes. They are as follows:

Monday, May 18

EMS Education Day: Gassert said a few hot topics can include hand-washing education, CPR, Stop the Bleed training, car seat inspections, bicycle and skateboard helmet/pads checks. “These are all ways that EMS can reach out to the community,” he said.

Tuesday, May 19

Safety Tuesday: Here’s a tip to help EMS partners keep each other safe, according to Distance CME Instructor James Boomhower: “Always have your partner double check your PPE before you make patient contact.” Boomhower added that when times are stressful, “take time to breathe, hydrate and rest. Your life depends on it.”

Wednesday, May 20

EMS for Children Day: What are your favorite ways to celebrate EMS Week with kids? We asked Charlene Jansen, a Distance CME instructor and former EMS providers for her take. She said, “I like the activity books with colors, stickers, plastic badges and fun (bandages). They love ambulance tours and the candy that goes with it.”

Thursday, May 21

Save-A-Life Day, featuring CPR and Stop the Bleed training: Teach bystanders how to stop the bleed with a training event for a local business, nonprofit organization or students in your community. Focus on the five steps of compression.

Friday, May 22

EMS Recognition Day: “We’ve adopted EMS Strong as our theme each year. You can (honor) the team with a gift card or recognition at the station,” Murray said. “The leadership can acknowledge that they know you are stressed and say thank you to the team at each shift change.”

Check out our courses to learn more about the skills promoted during EMS Week!