NEMSAC Meets to Discuss Priorities, Elect Leadership

The National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC), charged with advising the federal government on EMS issues, met in Washington on July 30 and 31. It was the first NEMSAC meeting for 19 of the panel’s 25 members.

Much of the meeting was spent bringing the council up to speed on the federal activities related to EMS as well as previous NEMSAC actions. Mark Rosekind, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was also in attendance to swear in the council members.

"What you recommend translates into saving lives," Rosekind said. "This is hard work. Give us recommendations that we are going to implement to really make a difference."

Ed Gabriel, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services and Chairman of the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS (FICEMS), reminded the council members that NEMSAC is part of a group of organizations working on EMS issues at the federal level.

"We’re partners here to try to make things work," he said. "We have to work together as a team to support providers across the country."

Members elected John Sinclair, a NEMSAC veteran, as the council’s new chair. Sinclair, who represents fire-based EMS, is the chief of Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue in central Washington. He will serve as chair of the council for a one-year term.

Anne Montera, a newly appointed council member representing the public health sector, was elected vice chair. Montera is a public health nurse consultant in Eagle, Colorado, who has extensive experience working with EMS and helped create some of the state’s earliest community paramedic programs.

Following the elections, NEMSAC members discussed issues and topics they may consider as the council’s top priorities over the next several years. As a congressionally authorized advisory group, NEMSAC may make recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation or to FICEMS, an interagency group of representatives from ten federal agencies that work on EMS-related issues.

"We need to think holistically; how does EMS fit into the healthcare picture?" Sinclair asked, kicking off the discussion.

Many council members echoed those thoughts, while others raised issues ranging from the collection and use of data to the regulation of controlled substances. Several members were concerned with possible interpretations of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulations that might make it more difficult for EMS practitioners to administer medications and controlled substances such as narcotics or benzodiazepines.

It was clear that the issues of reimbursement policy and data collection and integration are priorities for several individual NEMSAC members.

Sean Kaye, an EMS specialist at the EMS Performance Improvement Center in North Carolina who represents EMS data managers on NEMSAC, said that simply collecting data and creating performance measures was not enough for the thousands of agencies that lack personnel with formal data analysis training.

There is a need for "an initiative for standardized training for data managers at the local level to ensure high quality data," he said.

Training and education throughout the EMS system were clearly areas of concern for several other members of the council. A few mentioned that training of mobile integrated health and community paramedicine providers needed to be a top priority of the EMS community.

"There are some models [for community paramedic training] out there," said Val Gale, Battalion Chief of health and medical services for the Chandler (Ariz.) Fire Department. "Access to some of those models is very difficult."

Matching training and education to the needs of the EMS workforce in general was also on the minds of several council members. Mary Fallat, a trauma surgeon and chief of pediatric surgery at the University of Louisville, said EMS practitioners needed more education on patient-centered and compassionate care, which would benefit patients and their families but also help prevent post-traumatic stress among providers.

Nanfi Lubogo, who represents consumers and the general public, said that at times there was a "disconnect between the community and EMS," and that both needed more education. She specifically addressed the need for more education for EMS providers on communicating with and treating people with disabilities.

NEMSAC will determine its highest priorities and its members will work in committees throughout the next two years to do additional background work and to develop recommendations. The committees present their work at open meetings of the entire council, which gathers in Washington three times each year; the council can then decide whether to adopt formal recommendations based on the committees’ work. Sign up at EMS.gov to receive more information about NEMSAC, including announcements of the next meeting dates and advanced copies of meeting agendas and other materials.