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Column: Honoring EMS Partners in Healthcare

They are the first responders and the first link in the chain of survival when an emergency strikes. To be an emergency medical services (EMS) provider is truly a calling to help others, involving long hours, physical and emotional demands and potentially dangerous working conditions. This May, we at Inova Alexandria Hospital are proud to honor our local EMS providers during national “Emergency Medical Services Week” May 20-26.

Through the years, Inova Alexandria Hospital and the area’s EMS providers have formed a supportive collaboration to improve the health of our community. In 2009, we teamed up with the City of Alexandria’s Fire and EMS to equip the city’s five ambulances with wireless technology that transmits a patient’s electrocardiogram results immediately to the hospital’s emergency staff. This tool has proven to be a critical resource for accurately diagnosing heart attack patients in the field so that we can ready the proper resources before a patient arrives at our doors.

In our role as a Primary Stroke Center, our emergency and critical care staff coordinated with EMS from Alexandria, as well as Arlington, Fairfax and the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, to realize improvements in the rapid treatment for stroke patients. We provide annual education for area EMS providers and feedback on stroke patient outcomes to assist with their own in-house training. In turn, they have helped us improve patient outcomes by conducting thorough neurological assessments and diagnostic tests in the field, which have enabled us to ready hospital resources before the patient arrives — a critical point for stroke patients who have only about a two hour window to receive life-saving clot-busting drugs.

Sometimes it’s the little things we do for each other that make a big difference: Our recent hospital renovations included a room in the Emergency Department (ED) just for police and EMS to take a break, check email or send reports. And our EMS partners regularly include ED staff in ride-alongs and training, or conduct CPR re-certification classes as needed.

Working side-by-side every day, this calling becomes more than just a job for those of us in healthcare. As many of the employees here will tell you, the EMS providers at the City of Alexandria Fire and Rescue are part of our family. Tragically, in February our family was dealt a devastating blow with the loss of paramedic Joshua “Josh” Weissman, who died from injuries he sustained after falling from an I-395 overpass while responding to a call. Our staff remembers his perpetual smile and dedication to his job. He had a good sense of humor and was fond of eating popsicles on hot summer days. His loss has brought us all closer together.

On May 24, we will honor Josh’s memory and the many contributions of his City of Alexandria EMS colleagues during our annual EMS Breakfast. We are grateful for their partnership in improving the health of the community we serve and honored to have counted Josh among our family.

By Christine Candio, FACHE

CEO, Inova Alexandria Hospital