2020 put emergency medical services (EMS) at the forefront of just about everyone’s minds. Neighbors erected banners celebrating emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and doctors, as healthcare workers saw enormous early death tolls in the wake of the pandemic. COVID continues to rip through communities and will figure prominently in the industry through at least the first half of 2021.
The reverberations of this pandemic will echo well beyond the advent of a vaccine, and the lessons the pandemic has taught us will continue to affect EMS practices for years to come. Here are the most significant EMS industry trends we expect in 2021.
There are already signs of hope for the coming year: several viable COVID vaccines, improving death and hospitalization rates, and a deepening understanding of the virus. But with new knowledge comes new opportunities for upheaval. Fights over access to vaccines, ongoing disputes about public mask requirements, the politicization of healthcare, and more will likely continue.
EMS workers are stuck in the middle of the political wrangling, and that’s unlikely to change. This means you can expect a wide range of reactions from your patients—from fear of the virus to outright hostility toward health workers, thanks to vaccine conspiracy theories and fear.
Ongoing Focus on Emotional Health
The mental health of first responders was plummeting even before the COVID-19 crisis. Now, it’s at an all-time low thanks to punishing hours, crushing workloads, and ever-shifting threats. Agencies across the globe must focus on first responders’ mental health if they want to have enough workers to sustain them through the pandemic and beyond.
Expect more workplace mental health messaging, training on mental health issues, and employee support options. It is doubtful that these interventions will be enough to offset the incredible demands of life as a first responder. So we may begin seeing more interventions down the road.
Increased Need for Certification
Agencies want to be able to say that their team is the best. One of the easiest ways to do this is with more certification. The pandemic has underscored the need to have highly skilled, well-prepared workers at all times and working with all patients. Expect to see a greater push for certification. During the pandemic, this push may mean you’re spending more time on virtual calls and socially distanced classes. Toward the end of 2021, if things go well, you may return to traditional classrooms.
The healthcare industry was already growing by leaps and bounds thanks to an aging population and a rapid increase in serious chronic illnesses. That growth may now accelerate, especially if so-called COVID long haulers develop long-term serious health issues.
Now that the world has seen the unbelievable toll a pandemic can take, there may be a greater emphasis on emergency medicine and epidemiology, including the role first responders can play in slowing pandemics—and perhaps in detecting their earliest warning signs. Healthcare jobs should grow in demand, but it remains to be seen whether their pay will improve, too.
A Focus on Immediate Care
The COVID-19 pandemic saw many hospitals setting up triage tents, isolating COVID patients into separate wards, and adopting other risk mitigation strategies. One key aspect of risk mitigation is avoiding moving patients, because transferring a patient from one ward to another could potentially expose dozens of patients and providers to an infectious illness.
EMS providers have had to get creative so that they can treat patients wherever they find them—whether it’s in parking lot tents or their own homes—and reduce unnecessary reliance on intensive care units and emergency departments.
Portable emergency suction can save patients’ lives without moving them across the hospital—and sometimes without even transporting them. It can also reduce the spread of highly contagious aerosolized particles, so many agencies have relied on portable suction more during the pandemic.
This reliance will likely continue for the foreseeable future. To learn more about choosing a suction machine for your agency, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.