Williamsport, Pa. – In a word, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in uncertainty.
“While most would claim the most obvious uncertainties are: Do I have the virus? Will I transmit the virus to my family? Is my protective equipment (gloves, face shields, gowns, etc.) protecting me? Is there enough personal protective equipment to sustain this rapidly unfolding virus? While those are the most current ‘uncertainties,’ there is the one unique ‘uncertainty’ of: Will I lose my job?” said 2015 Pennsylvania College of Technology Kyle G. Stavinski said. “While all these uncertainties might seem absurd to some, they are certainly real – and to top off these ‘uncertainties,’ providers are changing the way they approach patients during an emergency.”
One of those changes is the usual practice of entering a person’s home to provide care, which, he explains, emergency medical technicians and paramedics have been taught to do since the inception of emergency medical services.
Timothy A. Weaver, a 2011 graduate and a paramedic platoon chef with SREMS, as well as a part-time EMT instructor for the college, said, "the primary goal is to promote EMS crew safety while caring for and stabilizing patients with various illnesses, including COVID-19 diagnoses."
“During this time of COVID-19 concern, we’re faced with a challenge that’s evolving and complex. EMS crews are balancing the approach of treating patients with the appropriate personal protective equipment while continuing the practice of delivering high quality prehospital medical treatments.”
Christopher T. Boyer, director of Penn College’s paramedic program and 2003 alumnus agreed with both men saying, “The pandemic has certainly increased the complexity of every mission.”
While Boyer continues to work as a flex critical care flight paramedic for Geisinger Life Flight, he has also spent a great deal of time moving the college’s paramedic program forward during the pandemic. That has involved a great deal of changes, as well, as classes transitioned to remote instruction by virtue of the state’s stay-at-home orders.
“It’s been a great deal of work to follow the trends and advice of our accreditors to replace canceled clinical rotations with lab simulations in light of the pandemic,” Boyer said. “We’ve increased the use of online technology and have implemented remote lab courses to allow the students to continue their education while working from home, going so far as to mail lab supplies to the students so they can continue to practice their IV and medication administration skills on supplied simulation equipment.”
Many changes being made in the profession as the coronavirus evolves have the potential of being permanent, Stavinski believes.
“New systems are in place that have never existed before that support the growth of the profession,” he said.
Those include screening questions being asked by dispatch centers before they send an ambulance or helicopter to the scene of an emergency, providers routinely wearing more PPE, and enhanced relationships among health care providers.