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National EMS Week is May 21-27— “Where Emergency Care Begins!”

National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week is May 21-27, 2023.  This year’s theme is “Where Emergency Care Begins!”  National EMS Week honors the lifesaving care EMS providers offer nationwide, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.   They are truly where emergency care begins.

The American Heart Association warns the public to utilize EMS when needed by the following theme, “Don’t Die of Doubt.  Chest Pain?  Trust 911!”  They warn the public not to doubt and Call 911 if any of these symptoms of heart attack or stroke appear:

Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Chest discomfort that can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other signs may include a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Stroke Symptoms

If you think someone is having a stroke, think F.A.S.T.

  • Face drooping on one side or numb
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech that’s slurred, difficulty speaking
  • T stands for time to call 911.

In addition to heart attacks and strokes, the local ambulance services respond to every kind of emergency and continue to get busier each year.  In 2022, Allamakee County EMS services responded to over 1300 medical emergencies with a 9% increase in overall county-wide volumes noted in the last four years.  Veterans Memorial Hospital EMS currently completes about 900 ambulance calls annually.

The area ambulance services who commonly arrive with patients at Veterans Memorial Hospital (listed in alphabetic order) includes the Caledonia Ambulance, Harpers Ferry Rescue Squad, Lansing Ambulance Service, Monona Ambulance Service, New Albin Fire, Postville Ambulance Service, Waterville Rescue Squad, all in addition to the Waukon Veterans Memorial Hospital service.

Technology is often key to the efficient, high-quality care provided by these services.  This last year, Veterans Memorial Hospital began using the Pulsara communication system which is a free app, allowing the EMS staff to alert the hospital staff of the patient’s condition while still on scene, so they can best prepare for their arrival to the hospital. For this reason, hospital first responders are using their cell phone and tablets to confidentially transfer this information while on emergent calls.


Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) are greatly needed in EVERY community.  An  EMT class will be starting at Northeast Iowa Community College on May 26 with the next local class held in January 2024.  All classes are held in cooperation with Northeast Iowa Community College Business and Community Solutions.

With this certification, individuals are able to volunteer on their own community’s ambulance service or rescue squad, as well as be prepared for careers in emergency services. But the satisfaction of helping others and giving back to the community is the real reward for becoming an EMT.

For more information about local EMT service opportunities and classes, contact Jacob Dougherty, Paramedic, EMS Manager, or Cheryl Livingston, Paramedic, EMS Instructor, at Veterans Memorial Hospital at (563) 568-3411.