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Interview Transcribed

LIFENET-AUG-20-PODCAST-MIX.mp3

JW:
It’s time for a podcast from J.W., Anna, and Friends.  And we do have a friend from the community today. Tina from LifeNet. She’s their director of communications.

ANNA:
Public relations.

JW:
And Tina comes by way of down around Houston originally, but you’ve been in the community for a number of years now.

TINA:
Yeah, I have. I moved up here in 2006. So it’s home. I love it. I got a little bit of experience in a lot of different places, but it is my home now, and LifeNet is the best company I’ve ever worked for. I absolutely love them.

JW:
All right. Well I had lots of questions about LifeNet because, you know, a lot of people just think, OK, the people that drive the ambulance. But it’s so much more than that. They start out with the people who actually have to go out to your home or where the accident is or the incident is. The paramedics and such. Talk about that.

TINA:
Our EMTs and paramedics or some of the most amazing people. They are trained in pre-hospital care. Our EMTs go to school for about a semester, and actually for a semester, not about, and learn how to take care of patients. And then our paramedics are the ones who actually work with you in the back of the ambulance during transport. They go to school for about a year. They learn practically anything you can think of that would happen in an emergency room. And they learn how to do it in the back of the ambulance. They work under the medical direction of local physician Dr. Matt Young, and they work under his guidance and they do pre-hospital care.

JW:
They have to be  trained. They have to be levelheaded, coolheaded, calm, able to handle anything that comes their way. And it’s a great profession. I understand you probably are short on some of them?

TINA:
There is a shortage across the nation. If there’s anybody out there that would really like to get into the healthcare field, EMS is one of the fastest ways to get into healthcare. You can enroll now at either of the two local community colleges in their EMT program. It’s going to be a semester. If you don’t have a job, great. You can do it if you do have a job. It’s designed so that you can become an EMT around your schedule. We have teachers who work for us just in the summertime. They work a couple of shifts during the year, so it can be a part time job if you just want to get back to your community. The paramedic program is an additional year of training after that. We really encourage anybody considering going into EMS to to just go all the way through and get their paramedic certification . But we need EMTs and paramedics. We also need dispatchers.

JW:
Yeah, that’s a whole other side of it. The dispatchers. Talk a little bit about the dispatchers because they’re the people taking the emergency call. They are the first first responder. They’re your link. They’re your line. They’re talking to you when somebody calls. Tell us what happens after that.

TINA:
So when you call 9-1-1 for an emergency, you’re going to be directed to a Public Safety Answering Point. In Texarkana, that is Bi-State. And when they discover it’s a medical emergency, they’re going to transfer you over to our call center. We have a state of the art call center. It’s actually brand new. It opened last October over near the Nash exit.

We work in teams. We work in teams not only on the ambulance, but also in the call center. So you’re going to talk to what we call the call taker. They’re going to ask you a lot of questions. Your name, your phone number. They’re going to ask your phone number twice because in a medical emergency, people will transpose things in their heads. They may say the wrong numbers. We want to make sure we have the right way to get in touch with you. They’re also going to give you pre-arrival instructions. So they’re trained both to be an emergency medical dispatcher and our employees within their first year working for us also become an EMT. Several of them are paramedics. So they’re trained in how to give you pre-arrival instructions as emergency medical dispatchers. You should stay on the phone with them until they tell you to get off.

ANNA:
And that’s important because that pre-arrival instruction, they’re going help you take care of your loved one in sudden cardiac arrest. They’re going to teach you how to do CPR. Wow.

TINA:
And then simultaneously, the dispatcher, their partner, is talking to our ambulance crew, relaying everything.

ANNA:
So they c can tell them what’s exactly going on at that second in the home, if things have gotten better, things have gotten worse. What to expect, what to expect when they get in there and walk in, that’s great. That’s great. Now, dispatchers, EMT, paramedics, what kind of shifts do they work?

TINA:
So all of our dispatchers work 12-hour shifts. Most of our EMTs and paramedics work 12-hour shifts here in the Texarkana area in Miller and Bowie Counties. In the more rural areas, like Cass or Red River County, they may work 24-hour shifts.

JW:
We’ve got Tina from LifeNet.  Tina, we’ve been talking about what LifeNet does. Of course, you’ve got the traditional ground ambulances that we talked about so much, but also, there is the helicopter.

TINA:
Yes.  We have a helicopter and a fixed wing. The helicopter is utilized for serious injuries when we need to get somebody somewhere fast. It’s located over at the Texas Regional Airport. So is our fixed wing.  The fixed wing is used for longer distance flights, or maybe if weather prevents the helicopter from flying the helicopter. It’s the oldest operating helicopter program in the state of Arkansas. Don Ruggles got it all kicked off. Don Ruggles is the heart of that program. When his son Tony was involved in an accident, he realized that there might have been a better way to get him to the hospital faster. And he wanted to make sure that no other family had that same problem. So he brought a medical helicopter to this area. He worked really hard, met Roy Morgan, who was the founder of Air Methods. And Roy Morgan kind of helped him bring the helicopter here.  It was called Air Life until both hospitals merged their EMS programs together in 1993. The program’s name then changed to LifeNet Air.

JW:
Well, I mean, in critical times, seconds can mean everything as far as saving a person’s life. Do they also transfer? Like if they come here, but then they see that, well, we really need to go to Little Rock or somewhere like that?

TINA:
We do transfers by both ground and air.  If it’s a critical patient … think about a stroke patient, a patient who has massive cardiac problem, seriously ill septic. In all of those types of patients, like you said, time matters. So we may fly them via helicopter. If the doctor thinks it is necessary. We call that interfacility transports.  That is probably the bulk of what our helicopter program does .

JW:
Talk about your membership program.

TINA:

A lot of people don’t know about our Membership Program. It’s a very affordable way to protect your family in the event that you ever need ground or air ambulance transport. And I say very affordable because it’s only $75 a year for the ground coverage. It’s $135 a year if you want ground and air transport. And what that does is if you’re ever transported by LifeNet, we take your insurance payment of payment in full. If insurance denies your bill, and that happens a fair amount of the time in a lot of cases, we discount your bill by 40 percent. It’s just a great program to have. It covers everybody in your household for one fee. One of my favorite things about it, I don’t know about you, but my family lives about six hours from here. And so, when they come up and visit for a week at a time every summer, if they were to get sick or injured at my house and we needed to transport them by ambulance, they’re also covered on mymembership. So it covers guests in the home transported from your home.

ANNA:
That is really a good deal. $75 dollars a year. That’s nothing. I mean, I don’t have my calculator. In my brain, that’s five or six dollars a month, sometimes a little over five dollars a month.

TINA:
And we’re a nonprofit. So that money also helps us support community education, community outreach, ensure we have the best supplies. I mean, we have the best supplies.  I just want to stress how a membership also helps you support us as well.

JW:
So somebody is out there and they’re interested in maybe becoming an EMT, paramedic or dispatcher, which is a very important job.  How can they do that?

TINA:
They can go to our website to learn more? LifeNetEMS.org/NewCareer. They can also call us at 903-556-0301. We’ll talk to them and answer questions that they have about getting started in the career or questions they might have about our membership program.

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