NORTH ADAMS

With the recent closing of North Adams Regional Hospital, our community has been sent into a whirlwind of concern and unanswered questions. At North Adams Ambulance, we as EMS providers, want to assure the community that our services will in no way change. When you call 911, North Adams Ambulance will still be dispatched and we will still be responding in the same timely manner as we have in the years past.

However it has come to our attention that you, our community, have expressed concerns about our resources and the actual services EMS can provide to the sick and injured. We believe that now, more than ever, answering those questions may help ease the minds of the community.

For starters, we can promise you that EMS is more than flashy lights and loud sirens. While those are, as some would say, perks of the job, all EMS personnel that arrive to your emergency is well trained and versed in many aspects of medical care. EMS is comprised of three different training levels and here at North Adams Ambulance all levels are represented. And while each level is different, they all play an intricate part in the pre-hospital setting.

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- EMT basic. This level of certification is the first step in the Emergency Medical Services, and every provider you encounter will have started here. The amount of training for this certification consist of 135 hours of class time, which is then followed by hands on experience.

Providers at the basic level can assist patients in need of medical attention providing skills such as patient assessments, bandaging, bleeding control, splinting and assisting patients with medication use such as inhalers or Epi-Pens.

- EMT intermediate. This level of certification is the second step in the Emergency Medical Services. The amount of training for this level consists of the previous 135 hours of class time followed by additional class and clinical, or in-hospital, training for additional skills.

Individuals with this certification can provide all the aforementioned skills as well as other critical interventions. Those with the Intermediate certification can also provide patients with advanced life support skills, such as IV access and intubation in those patients whose conditions required these skillful techniques.

- EMT Paramedic. This level of certification is the third and final step in the Emergency Medical Services. The training for this level is far more complex and lengthy than the previously mentioned certifications.

Paramedics attend class room lectures for approximately 10 months in which time they learn everything from pediatric to geriatric, the nervous system to the cardiovascular system and everything in-between. Once the classroom time has finished, students move on to hundreds of hours in both the hospital and pre-hospital settings to hone and advance their critical skills working directly with Doctors and Nurses. Once all is said and done, paramedics can provide patients with the highest level of pre-hospital care.

The basis of their care is the same as those in the Basic and Intermediate setting, however paramedics carry many more tricks up their sleeves. On top of providing proper patient assessments, Paramedics offer a wide range of advanced life support skills. Much like the Intermediates, Paramedics can establish IV access and provide intubation to maintain an airway, but they can do so much more. Paramedics can not only provide cardiac monitoring, they can also interpret the EKG and provide the necessary treatment.

Medication administration, pain management, cardiac defibrillation and advance airway management are many of the critical interventions Paramedics can provide to any patient.

Together these three levels of EMS provide life-altering and ultimately life-saving pre-hospital treatment. We have come a long way from being "ambulance drivers" and we strive to further advance our skills and pre-hospital care every day. As the community we serve, this information will hopefully clear up any confusion and provide a level of comfort that EMS is here for you and not just as a transport service.

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We are much more than lights and sirens. We are an extension of the Emergency Department on wheels. We are who will carry you down three flights of stairs in the snowstorm. We are the strangers who will hold your hand and make that scary moment seem not so bad. We have seen good days and we have seen bad days, we have a sense of humor that is a little different than most people's, but please rest assured that we have the training and the experience to provide this community with the best pre-hospital care available.

John P. Meaney Jr. is general manager, North Adams Ambulance Service, which serves the communities of North Adams, Clarksburg, Florida, Monroe and Stamford, Vt.