Posted by: medicblog999 | July 16, 2009

The Americans have got it right!


Photo Credit to Mike Legeros

Don’t worry, this isn’t about health care reform or the argument between socialised and private healthcare!

One of the truly beneficial and unexpected side effects of having this blog is that I am now part of a huge international network of like minded dedicated EMS professionals. I am suddenly being exposed to many ‘best practices’ in various countries around the world, and due to participating in the ‘EMS Garage’ podcast, I can now email and ask questions to some very influential and senior EMS folks in America.

I was listening to last weeks EMS garage episode when I heard Skip Kirkwood (The Wake County EMS Chief) talk about a yearly ceremony which they hold to celebrate successful ‘saves’ they have had in their County during the last year. I contacted him after I listened to the podcast so that I could learn a bit more.

It all starts with invites to patients who have been successfully been resuscitated, along with their families, and also the paramedics and EMTs who were involved in the incident. On the evening of the ceremony, the programme goes something like this:

  • An outside reception with snacks and light sodas
  • An opening ceremony involving presentation of the flags by fire/EMS honor guard personnel, accompanied by our Public Safety Pipes and Drums.
  • The National Anthem
  • A blessing by the chaplain
  • Opening remarks by the EMS Chief, the medical director, and the fire chief
  • A speech thanking the medics by one of the elected officials (the Mayor or the Chair of the County Commission)
  • A keynote speech, by a survivor or a member of a survivor’s family, usually accompanied by a tear-jerker slide show.
  • Those who have participated in saves are called to the stage by individual save, announced by date, patient age and gender (no names).  They shakehands and get presented with their “save pin” which are a bar worn on the dress uniform.  After the first one, they have numbers to indicate subsequent awards.
  • Closing remarks by somebody

Now I know that many British paramedics will initially think that it sounds like a load of sentimental rubbish, and they wouldn’t want to be part of something like that. They may try to portray the good old British sentiment of ‘Im just doing my job’, which we all do, day in and day out. But if you really think about it, and forget about the initial feeling of thinking it would be ‘uncool’ to say that you would like to be part of something like that, then what a wonderful night it would be.

Many Europeans think the Americans are ‘over the top’ when it comes to nationality and flag waving and ‘hero worship’ when it comes to their public services – Fire, EMS, Police and Armed Forces, but I think they have got it right. I don’t have a need to be told what a good job I do, I know I do a good job and I know how lucky I am do be a practising Paramedic, but we all acknowledge that lack of getting a proper pat on the back for a job well done.

I know that there have been many times where I would have liked to have seen  a patient again that I have either resuscitated or saved with thrombolysis or other interventions, but that virtually never happens. Imagine how special it would be to be part of a planned event where many patients and paramedics can get together and celebrate some of the great work that we do.

The UK Ambulance service is notoriously bad at promoting our successes. We all know that the UK FIre Service have a fantastic PR department and a fantastic community programme, which we can never match (as we are just to busy to do the community events and training that they do), so is it a really a bad idea to take things into our own hands and invite the community in to help celebrate the times when we really do make a difference.

I personally love the idea of a ceremony like this, where my fellow paramedics (no matter how macho and straight laced they pretend to be) can actually enjoy getting a well and truly deserved pat on the back, along with all the other links in the chain, from our contact centre call takers, allocators, and road staff to the Headquarters staff, who all work together to provide a first class service.

I’m also sure the patients and their families would like the opportunity to show their gratitude too.

So, here is my next ‘Project’. I’m going to see what I can do with this. Lets see if I can get sufficient interest in an event such as this, and take it to the powers that be and work on developing a “North East Ambulance Service Ceremony of Celebration”

It may well fall flat on its face, I may be told that I am listening to too many Americans, but I will reply with the statement “well maybe they have got it right!!”

I would love to hear what you all think about an event like this. Is it a good idea, is it worthwhile doing, do you do anything like this anyway. If you are a member of the public or a patient who has had experience of the NHS, would you like an opportunity to say thanks. Leave a comment and let me know, it will all help when I take this to the management.

My thanks go out to Skip for providing me with the information on his event.



  1. Hi M999, I’ll be the first person to say that it sounds like a fantastic idea! Best of luck!

  2. That sounds like a great idea. You may just be doing your job, but it’s nice to have a well done every now and then. I certainly think that sort of recognition is definately lacking from the ambulance service. Good luck with it!

  3. I agree! Would be nice to get a pat on the back every so often instead of constantly being hit on the back with the ORCON/turnaround times stick…

  4. Did I read the title of the post right? Wow. It’s like up is down and topsy is turvy. It took me a little bit to recover from my initial shock on that title.

    Great idea you’ve had. Maybe you can even tie it in with “the project”.

    If it works, let me know when it is. I’ll bring the Wife and Kid and see how you Brits celebrate

  5. That sounds like a great idea you guys really do deserve some recognition for the great work you do!! Maybe have a look at the commendation system Durham police constabulary do for some more local ideas.

  6. I’ve never told this one online before, and it occurred some thirty-odd years ago when I worked for a bit as an EMT, as I like to put it “in the ancient days when people bleeding all over you was mostly a laundry problem”.

    We got a call for a stabbing, “domestic violence”.

    Great. Domestic. Our FAVORITE kind of call.

    We get to the house, there’s a nice middle-class couple there– and the wife has stabbed the husband in the chest with a steak knife.

    We do what EMTs did at the time– occlusive dressing, IV fluids and got the guy in to the hospital.

    And, as is frequently the case, we stopped thinking of of the patient after getting him in, as this was a LARGE metropolitan hospital and we almost never got any follow-up on patients after they left the Emergency Clinic.

    So several months pass, and it’s Christmas season, with all the happy and sad calls that are peculiar to that time of year.

    Our dispatcher calls and tells us to come in to the hospital, that someone wants to speak with us.

    “Just freakin’ great”, we think– somebody’s probably filed a complaint. It goes with the territory when most of your clientele are on alcohol or drugs when you interact with them.

    So we pull on to the ramp and go inside– and the couple I described at the beginning of this post are standing there.

    The husband shakes both of our hands, thanks us and tells us he thinks we saved his live, hands us each five dollars and wishes us a merry Christmas.

    I think that our jaws remained in the fully dropped position for close to an hour after that.

    Best regards from the States,


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