Keith Edmonds, AEMTA President

As I enter into the final few days of my term as your President of this great Association of professionals, I have taken the time to reflect on some changes that have occurred over the past 2 years as well as some of the directions in which we are heading.

I have never been so proud of our profession as I am today. We have come along way since I entered this business in 1980 and it is because of you, the Arkansas EMS Professional, that these changes have happened. We as a profession, have stood strong over the years asking for changes that we encounter daily that affects the patients we care for. We have drastically improved the profession in the eyes of others across the state and are now recognized as the licensed professional we have all wanted.

It is because of the membership of this Association that has dreamed of seeing changes and speaking up to the Board of Directors that these changes have occurred and will continue to occur for years to come. We have gone from the complacent and compliant professional to a voice that has been heard and recognized and is ready to respond at a moments notice with very little questions asked. We are a strong family that is bound together with one common goal: Patient Care!! For this, I applaud each of you!

Other changes that have occurred, and yes I am dating myself, are the tools of our trade that we use in our modern day EMS. No more Thomas Half Ring, Short Board and many other little things that some of the older Professionals might remember and to those that have never heard of these, I challenge you to learn about them and try to implement their usage at some point while sitting around the base. Find some “old school” partner to assist you in the application. I am sure you will both enjoy.

New changes that we have seen in the past couple of years include the introduction of money to our Profession. Never before in the history of Arkansas EMS have we been given money to assist us with our education, equipment and personnel as we currently have coming in from the newly formed Trauma System. It has been a dream come true for many of our older professionals that have fought many battles asking for assistance for our injured patients. We have accomplished this goal and are making vast improvements throughout our state in delivering higher quality of care to our trauma patients than ever before. This will continue because we all still have the passion to assure that EMS moves forward in paving the way for our Trauma System and the needs of our patients in the field.

Another change that we have been able to see through is some of the changes that directly affect patient care. If you had told me back in 1985 that one day we would be paralyzing a patient so we could control their airway and better care for them, I would have laughed in your face. From the days of intracardiac sticks to the thrombolitics we are now using, major changes have affected the lives of so many patients that we have transported. The move from the EOA/EGTA to the modern day multi-lumen airways that we use is remarkable. We also have the ability to drill into a patient to deliver the needed fluids and medications in order to ensure that they are receiving what is needed to sustain their life!! Many people have worked on these advances and so many more and I thank them, especially Dr. Timothy Calicott for his vision of patient care in Arkansas and his ability to research our objectives and make it happen. We, as a profession, are very fortunate to have him working with us and for us and advancing Arkansas EMS. His dedication affects our patients on every call we make. Bless your heart Dr. Calicott and I thank you!!

Another change to look forward to in the upcoming years is a new certification of our Emergency Medical Responders; those who assist EMS professionals on a daily basis, usually of their own free will, time and money to ensure that their neighbors are well taken care of prior to the arrival of EMS transport. Our committee, along with the Arkansas Department of Health, Section of EMS, has worked diligently over the past 2 years in making these important changes and adapting to the needs of the communities throughout Arkansas.
One other change that is currently being worked on as we speak is a quality retirement system for our profession. This system that will be solid throughout the entirety of our careers and based through a state program that will allow the opportunity for our professionals to look forward to an end of their career and still have the opportunity to support their families.

There are many people that I would like to thank for being a part of my family and assisting me in many ways over the past 2 years. There is no way I could ever thank the AEMTA Board of Directors for all of their work and challenges that I have placed on them. They have stepped up to the plate and delivered everything that has been asked of them and more. Each one of these Board members are dedicated to the success of our profession and have supported each member as we have grown and moved forward. They have set the bar high and will always be there to assist anyone in this Association when the need arises. The outgoing Board of Directors members are: Rod Barrett, Penney Russell, Meghen McMahen, Dwayne Aalseth, Donald Reed and Brenda Stewart. I thank you and respect each of these people from the bottom of my heart.

There are several others who have helped me in more ways than I can ever remember. Laura Guthrie has been a great help to me in doing whatever I have asked her to do to help our Association. She delivered 4 great conferences and I applaud her dedication to ensure that our educational needs have been met with the conferences and also with the Trauma education that she has worked so hard on. Sedley Tomlinson has been there at a moments notice to assist the Board and myself with anything that we have asked of him. Brenda Stewart has been a solid rock for me as well working so hard to improve the website for the AEMTA and to ensure that the LifeLine online has had interesting articles for everyone to read. Greg Brown has been a blessing in disguise for our Association as he has shown nothing more than respect and guidance for our movements that we have made in order to improve our profession to what the membership has asked for. The entire Section of EMS staff has been great to work with and drop everything they may have had going on in order to ensure that the AEMTA could have a Board meeting and interrupt their busy days while we wonder the hallways of their offices. Denise Carson, Immediate Past President of the Arkansas Ambulance Association for her ability to stand in there and fight for what is right and to ensure that the EMS Professional is not forgotten in many ways and for her patience with me as I question so many things. She has worked so hard with our Board of Directors to ensure that EMS is not forgotten and that we make the strides to bring the owners/operators together with the EMS field providers.

Others that have helped me in becoming who I am today that I wish I could thank personally are Earl Triplett, Jon McMahan, David Taylor and Janie Kennedy. Each of these has had a special place in my heart for the things they have done for me and our profession. I miss each of them dearly and thank their families for sharing them with me. I appreciate what they have shown me in the years that I knew them and what they taught me about patient care and the ability to smile as I have worked in some of the worse situations an EMS professional could ever imagine. There are very few days that pass that I don’t encounter a situation and wonder what Earl would have done and if he would have said, “Good job, Junior.” If I see an ambulance or fire truck broke down, I wonder if Jon would be able to auction it off. I see the changes that we are going through in EMS and wonder how proud David would be of our profession and say “Great job, Buddy”. Each time I see the compassion of one of my partners as we work so diligently to improve the situation of our patient, I wonder if Janie is smiling on us and wanting to say, “Try doing it like this.” Rest in peace my friends, rest in peace.

I hope that I have provided the leadership that you, the membership, have desired. I am sure that I have fallen short on some of our dreams but also excelled above and beyond on some of our other wishes. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to serve as your President and have been blessed beyond belief at the opportunity to work with so many great Professionals in our state. I have tried to ensure that everyone in the Profession understands how important it is to maintain our family of EMS. EMS has been my passion for many years now and I hope that I have been able to instill some of my passion for our Profession in each of you and that you can walk into the scenes that we respond to with your head held high and your pride stronger because you are part of a respected Profession across Arkansas. It is respected because you are not afraid to make a difference in what you do and improve in your patient care. There is not one member of this Association that should ever be afraid to ask for change when it comes to taking care of our patients. We should never have to sit back and want to be able to do more. We have the ability to pick up the phone or walk into our Medical Director’s office, our Manager’s office or the Section of EMS and ask for help. These people are there for us and our patients and we need to ensure that we use them for the support they offer us. You should never be able to not speak your mind when it comes to the best there is to offer for your patient, your partner and yourself in the profession that we all love so dearly.

Even though I am leaving the position of President, I am not going anywhere. I will offer all the support possible to the incoming Board of Directors and will also have the ability to sit on the Board as the Immediate Past President and have the opportunity to become a voting member once again. I will continue working for the members of this Association and pursue the dreams and goals that I set out to begin with that are still incomplete with the approval of the new President, Mr. Dwayne Aalseth. However, I intend to find more time for Lesley and enjoy watching Evyn and Allie as they enjoy their childhood. I might even find more time to locate some turkeys across Arkansas and spend a little more time with my other passion away from the cot along with my cattle and the farm.

Until we meet again, be safe and keep the passion of EMS excelling!! Thank you all for what you have done for me and for allowing me the opportunity to come into your extended family.

God Bless each of you in what you do daily and keep up the good work!!