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May 15-21 is the 42nd Annual National EMS Week
With school safety concerns top of mind in many school communities, an increasing number are taking necessary steps to develop and improve emergency preparedness plans. As key players in community safety, our emergency medical technicians and providers are an ever important resource to school communities. This week in celebration of EMS week, we shine a light on EMS providers and encourage our Safe and Sound community to collaborate with these professionals for safer schools.

What is EMS?
EMS stands for Emergency Medical Services. EMS professionals provide basic and advanced medical care when people experience accidents or medical emergencies.

Who works for EMS?
EMS is made up of trained professionals including 9-1-1 dispatchers, emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), advanced EMTs, and paramedics. Each EMS practitioner performs a role in a medical emergency and may be a paid worker or community volunteer. EMS care can be provided by police or fire departments, hospitals, private ambulance companies, or a combination of these.

What is EMS Week?
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), EMS Week dates back to 1974 when President Gerald Ford declared November 3 -10, “National Medical Services Week.” For the following four years, the observance continued until it was re-instituted by ACEP in 1982.

In 1992, EMS Week was moved to the  third week of May, celebrating the important work EMS practitioners do to our communities. EMS Week brings communities together to honor those that provide day-to-day lifesaving services. Whether you publicly recognize your local EMS department with a catered lunch or award ceremony, or write a personalized thank you letter, EMS Week is the perfect time to recognize and reach out to your local EMS practitioners.

Why should we celebrate EMS Week?
In addition to providing day-to-day basic and advanced emergency care, EMS practitioners also assist in educating communities on safety and health care. For a school, that may mean providing CPR, first-aid, and preparedness to school staff or teaching children about health care, injury prevention, and 9-1-1 services.

How can schools work together with EMS?
School safety is a community effort. It takes all hands on deck. Schools can work together with EMS practitioners by:

  • Inviting local EMS departments to visit the school – This allows the departments to become familiarized with the layout of the campus and its staff. Further, it allows students to become comfortable and accustomed to the sight of public safety figures, like EMS practitioners on school grounds.
  • Taking a trip – Tour the local 9-1-1 dispatch center or schedule an ambulance tour for students at your school to increase understanding and familiarity between EMS personnel and students.
  • Meeting to develop and update emergency preparedness plans – When it comes to emergency/crisis preparedness plans, schools should work together with public safety departments to develop strategies and plans for different types of emergencies and threats.
  • Participating in CPR and first-aid training – According the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, the national average response time to an emergency is 5-6 minutes. During an emergency, every minute counts. Learning CPR and first-aid are invaluable skills to have, especially for school community members.

Access our AUDIT Toolkit and check out “A Welcome Invitation” to learn about School Safety Socials for first responders.

Sources: ACEP, NAEMT, National School Safety and Security Services, U.S. Department of Justice

I have a long, happy history with school nurses. Most of us do. I can remember every school nurse throughout my academic career and into my teaching one. I wasn’t particularly unhealthy or needy. I just knew where to go for unconditional support. And so did everyone else.

Often the most popular staff member in a school, nurses hand out Band-aids, smiles, and compassionate care all day long. They keep an eye on students and staff and remain ready to provide critical care, intervention, and medical resources to our school communities. They educate students, staff, and families about everything from first aid and allergy safety to blood born pathogens and concussion safety.

When my role in the school community shifted from teacher to parent, it was the school nurse that served as our family’s wellness liaison, helping me find area doctors and specialists, keeping track of medications, vaccinations, and dietary requirements, and checking in with me when one of my children was not well. The nurse worked closely with my children’s teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, special educators–and even the cafeteria staff–to ensure my children’s wellness in school.

Today in my work as a school safety educator and advocate in school communities across the country, I meet a lot of people. One person I am sure to meet in every school is the nurse. It is rare that I meet with a safety team that does not include the school nurse. In fact, many of these teams are lead by the school nurse.

With a steady finger on the pulse of the school community’s wellness, in depth knowledge of each and every student and staff member, and emergency and medical training, the school nurse is a critical member of every school’s safety team. The unique qualifications and no-nonsense style of many school nurses often positions them to stand up for safety in a way that other staff members cannot.

This week at Safe and Sound Schools, we recognize and celebrate the countless contributions of our nation’s school nurses to the wellness and safety of our school communities. If you haven’t already, stop in and say thank you to your school’s nurse today. Know that your school’s nurse can serve as a tremendous asset to the safety of your community.  Offer your support, or perhaps an invitation to partner for school safety.

While you might not walk out of the nurse’s office with a Band-aid, sticker, or note to go home, you’re certain to walk off with a smile on your face, gratitude in your heart, and an advocate for safety by your side.

Michele Gay
Safe and Sound Schools