By Jessica Park
In 1967, Boone County Hospital launched its first ambulance service. 50 years later, Boone Hospital Center’s emergency services team includes nine ambulances, two wheelchair transport vans, and 55 health care professionals, all trained and licensed in emergency pre-hospital care. In 2016 alone, Boone Hospital’s blue ambulances answered over 12,000 calls for help throughout mid-Missouri, to treat patient before they arrive at the hospital.
“Every one of our ambulances you see on the street is essentially a rolling emergency room, with many of the same tools for treatment,” says Marc Carr, Boone Hospital Center’s EMS administrator. And, just like the emergency department at Boone Hospital Center, these units on wheels are staffed with highly trained and certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics.
All BHC ambulances are staffed with at least one paramedic and one EMT to provide immediate and critical care to patients. EMTs are trained and licensed to assist in life-threatening situations. They’re able to assess patient conditions; manage injuries, fractures and burns; control bleeding; provide oxygen; perform CPR and AED and, if needed, deliver babies in emergency situations.
Most of Boone Hospital Center’s EMS team – about 70% of the staff – are paramedics. Paramedics in Missouri must receive over 1,000 hours of education and an additional 500-plus hours on-the-job training for certification. In addition to what EMTs do, a paramedic can monitor a patient’s heart rhythm through EKG, start IV therapy or blood transfusions, provide endotracheal intubation to help a patient breathe, and more.
Both EMTs and paramedics are required to receive continuing education to keep their licenses and to keep up with the rapidly evolving field of emergency medicine.
"We provide some of the most advanced pre-hospital life support capabilities in mid-Missouri,” Marc says.
While the primary coverage area for Boone Hospital ambulances are downtown Columbia and north central and northeast Boone County, Boone Hospital Center’s emergency services crews frequently treat and transport patients all over Missouri, even out of state. They safely transport and monitor patients to hospitals in Saint Louis, Kansas City or occasionally Chicago. They also transport patients between the hospital and rehabilitation or skilled nursing facilities.
Boone Hospital Center’s EMS collaborates with other ambulance districts in Missouri to treat patients on-site, transport them to the most appropriate facility for care and, most importantly, respond as immediately as possible.
“The county’s EMS system is dynamic. Calls are assigned based on the computer-aided dispatch system, in order of who’s closest and available. You may see a BHC-EMS ambulance anywhere in Boone County,” Marc explains.
A patient’s choice usually determines which hospital they’re taken to, provided that the hospital has the capabilities to treat their condition. Anyone whose conditions meet trauma alert criteria is always taken to the nearest trauma center.
“All other patient conditions are able to be treated at Boone Hospital Center,” Marc says. This includes time-critical diagnoses like stroke. Boone Hospital Center has been designated a level one stroke center by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Boone Hospital Center’s EMS team also trains to support rescue operations, working with local, state and federal agencies to respond quickly should a crisis occur.
“We work closely with all of our public safety partners and meet regularly to discuss process improvements in the community, and plan for major disasters as best we can,” Marc says.
You may have seen Boone Hospital Center ambulances at community events, including the Roots and Blues Festival, Summerfest, City of Columbia’s Fire in the Sky, and community high school football games. The football game partnership initially started with Columbia Public Schools, then quickly expanded to support Hallsville, Centralia and Father Tolton Catholic high schools. This partnership gives Boone Hospital’s EMS teams to interact with the public in hopefully a non-emergent situation and assures players and fans that trained health care professionals are on the spot should they be needed.
EMS crews spend most of their shifts away from the hospital building, but they’re definitely part of the Boone Hospital Center team. They work closely with almost every patient care unit. Above all, they bring Boone Hospital’s high standards of clinical care and patient safety to wherever it’s needed.
“It’s about serving our customers and community at our highest level, at all times,” Marc says. “Every member of this team takes pride in wearing the Boone Blue. And we do our best to meet the needs our community expects and deserves.”