EMS Day on the Hill 2014

1972281_10152289199047290_1229167034_nLast week I had the awesome experience of attending the 5th Annual EMS Day on the Hill sponsored by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians in Washington D.C. EMS Day on the Hill is an opportunity to educate our representatives at the federal level of government about EMS and the challenges we face on a daily basis as providers and managers. 190 EMS providers from various services and of all different certification levels attended and completed 242 meetings with federal legislators or their staff this year.

Before you get excited or think, “I don’t know anything about politics.” The NAEMT people have taken care of all of that. About a week before the event, they sent me an email with a basic schedule and information on the bills that are currently in progress. The evening before we went to Capitol Hill, they held a briefing reviewing information on the current bills, the atmosphere in Washington, and other recent events that might affect conversations the next day during our meetings. Along with our delegation meeting schedules, NAEMT provided us with briefing sheets on the bills at hand and any other pertinent information like phone numbers to people at the event if we needed help and a map to get around Capitol Hill. They also made packets for us to leave with representatives or their staff for their review after our scheduled meetings. We were seated by state delegations and after the briefing there was a networking event so we could get to know the other members of our delegations and discuss our plans for the next day. Everyone was friendly and happy to answer any questions.

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Group Photo of 2014 Attendees

The next morning, my delegation met in the hotel lobby and migrated to our first meeting. Our delegation was a mix of veterans and novices to lobbying. Those that had participated before lead the way at the first few meetings until the rest of us were comfortable to take part as well. The staff that we met with were all attentive and interested in what we had to present. One staffer even let us know that she learned something new from us about EMS and how we provide service and the challenges we face in doing so. Many were aware of the changing climate of EMS and how the Affordable Care Act might affect us in the future. The bills NAEMT presented during these meetings were: The Field EMS Bill and Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act. We also promoted The EMS Caucus.

While going to Capitol Hill and participating in our nation’s government and being able to walk through the halls of history that make our country great was exciting, meeting fellow providers that believe and continue to work toward the future of our profession was even more amazing. My hope for the future of EMS was renewed via these conversations and I gained new insights into possible solutions for recurring issues that affect our profession. There is momentum and direction at the top, the rest of EMS needs to unite and place the power of our voices and votes behind this movement if we are ever going to progress and become a true profession.

I learned many things in the few days I spent in Washington, chief among them that I still have much more to learn. EMS providers need to put aside certifications, department affiliations, and petty differences if we are going to advance as a whole profession. Others see our division and don’t take us seriously because of it. Lobbying for EMS is not just one day a year. Speak to and educate your local and state officials about what we do and what our needs are, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you have the opportunity to attend EMS Day on the Hill next year or at any time in the future, jump on it! You will be glad you did!

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The Pit of Fear

The true terror began when I saw the room.

A friend sent me a photo of the room I was to be speaking in at my first national EMS conference just a few days before the event. As soon as I saw it the pit of mindless fear opened in my belly. Until that point, I almost felt as if I was preparing a program for someone else to present. That made it easier to quell the relentless voice in my head asking, “What if you mess up?” If you thought the world of EMS was small, I would call the circle of speakers at EMS conferences miniscule. Everyone truly knows everyone. If I blew it, this was the only chance I would ever get.

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Previously, I had been encouraged to submit to other conferences, but I was not ready. Trepidation and doubt nailed my feet to the floor. Submission dates passed and the encouraging voices waned. I had no intention of applying to this conference either, but someone reminded me about the deadline the afternoon it was due: New Years Eve. I heard somewhere that what you do on New Years Eve is what you will do all year. I submitted, not thinking I would ever get accepted. Imagine my surprise when I received an acceptance letter.

Now was the time to put up or shut up. My chosen topic was The Silent Killer: EMS Suicide. I wondered why on earth I picked such a sensitive topic to talk about at my first event. I had previously had mixed reactions from different providers during discussions including quite a loud, angry discussion at what had originated as a fun outing.

painOf course, I had writer’s block for weeks while I was supposed to be updating my presentation. Intermittently, when I thought of me in front of the audience, all I could imagine was disaster. A good friend encouraged me to close my eyes and imagine every detail to the perfect performance: what I would wear, how my hair was styled, what the Power Point would look like behind me, how full the room was, and most importantly: the positive audience reaction. Thankfully, I also had an honest mentor that when I thought I was done (YES!), returned my slides back to me with more comments. His suggestions improved my presentation exponentially. If you intend on moving up in this business, clinical or otherwise, you need to find a mentor in the area you wish to excel in.

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The day to present finally came. I woke up with my stomach tight and my attempt at breakfast was poorly received. I didn’t go on for another 6 hours! It was going to be a very long day indeed. I watched some other classes and found my mind wandering back to my subject matter while I wondered aimlessly around the host hotel and eventually decided to review one more time. It comforted me to run through the slides and make notes like someone with OCD arranges their desk over and over.

998572_10151784552212290_476214675_nAbout 20 minutes before I was scheduled to start, I went to find my assigned room and attempt to mentally prepare and put on the business face. I felt like an imposter when I walked to the front of the room to load my presentation. Everyone’s eyes felt like an accusation, “You don’t belong up there!”

The room started to get a little fuller and it was time to begin. I opened my mouth to introduce myself and the fear that had plagued me for weeks dissipated with every returned smile from the audience. I spoke and spoke, people nodding in agreement, smiling at anecdotes, silent when convicted. I shared secrets I only realized I had days before, the vulnerability uniting us, members of a secret club, no longer alone. I concluded and people came up to hug me and shake my hand. One young woman came up to me, speechless only able to utter, “ I just wanted to say thank you.” My friends surrounded me as I surrendered the lectern to the next speaker, the terror of just an hour ago growing into an indescribable high. And as I walked out of the room the joy and excitement bubbling from my heart I wondered, “When can I do it again?!?”

The Author Speaking

Maybe this is how you feel about public speaking. Maybe you think, “ I could NEVER do that.” Is there a topic you are passionate about? If you don’t talk about it, who will? I’m just a provider with an interest that stood up and said something.

What do you have to say?