The EMS program at Utah Navajo Health System, Inc. continues to be one of the top volunteer paid EMS organizations in the region, and continuing education and training are major contributors to that success.
Through courses like Advanced Cardiac Life Support, UNHS EMT's, Advanced EMT's and clinical staff continue to hone their skills and learn techniques that help save lives in emergency situations. UNHS EMS Director, Dustin Coggeshell, explained that this course is more in depth for EMT's and ER settings, and involves training in such things as Advanced Airway management, Effective Resuscitation Team Dynamics, cardiac arrest management, stroke management, and related pharmacology by IV. These courses are taught primarily by the two UNHS Paramedics, Ray Whaley and Otis Oldman. Whaley is the UNHS EMS Instructor/Training Officer and Coordinator. Oldman is also a UNHS Transport Dispatcher. Coggeshell is also the UNHS Patient Transport Director, an Advanced EMT and the American Heart Association Site Coordinator for training and all matters that deal with the American Heart Association for UNHS.
Along with newly added advanced life support classes, all UNHS employees are required to certify through the Basic Life Support (BLS) course every two years. Coggeshell said this course is the American Heart Association's Healthcare Provider course and everyone from custodians to accountants, to administration, to clinical staff and emergency personnel must take this course. There is a less advanced course offered through AHA, called the Heart Saver course. This is for laypersons such as teachers, parents and babysitters and includes an AHA First Aid course.
Every five years, the American Heart Association updates all training guidelines and materials, based on research and field studies conducted at major hospitals and metro ambulance companies throughout the nation. These studies help the AHA incorporate new medical/lifesaving techniques to help save lives. 2015 is the fifth year of this cycle and updates are expected from the AHA by November, Coggeshell said. These updates will come from the AHA through the Dixie Applied Technology College, in St. George because UNHS AHA program is an extension of that training facility. New training sessions, implementing the new AHA guidelines, could begin as soon as December, but will definitely be used in 2016.
Coggeshell said the ongoing training has paid off for UNHS EMS and the organization now has five full-time trainers for both the Basic Life Support classes (also known as the American Heart Association BLS for Healthcare Providers) and the Advanced Life Support classes. Along with the two new ACLS instructors Whaley and Oldman, Sunny Jones teaches the BLS course at Blanding Family Practice and is the Preventative Health Coordinator there. At Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain, Christine Johnson, MA, teaches these courses. Coggeshell is also a BLS instructor. He gives a lot of credit to Lenora Hatathle, the UNHS Human Resource Manager, for overseeing the CME program, making sure all employee trainings are conducted and all personnel are credentialed properly. It's a big job, he said, and she keeps the program running.
UNHS EMS has been busy throughout 2015 with 197 total dispatched calls so far, and 137 patients treated and transported, which includes interfacility calls. Cogge-shell reported that, according to the Utah State Department of Health, Bureau of EMS, the majority of the calls in the UNHS area were to homes and residences, with calls to streets and highways second in number and calls to public buildings next. Of those needing assistance, most were between the ages of 10 and 30. Those between the ages of 40-49 were next and male patients outnumbered females, but only slighter. Most of the calls were to locations in Utah, with Arizona second. Colorado and New Mexico fell far below Utah and Arizona in numbers.
Coggeshell said that while UNHS EMS is busy, there are a couple of items that those requesting EMS assistance can do to make it easier to locate those in need. First, when calling for EMS assistance, it is best to give an actual address with actual county road numbers. Next, provide a contact phone number and all the patient information you can. UNHS EMS uses county road maps provided by San Juan County. These are well marked, but in cases when EMT's can't find a location, if they can contact the reporting party by phone they can narrow down where they need to go to provide assistance.