Roosevelt Medical Center EMS Responders Answer the Call
April 4, 2018 | View PDF
Sirens squeal. Adrenaline rushes. An ambulance races to the accident scene. Status of those involved? Unknown. For an emergency medical responder, it's just part of a typical day.
When a situation is at its worst, EMS responders perform at their best, working calmly in chaotic, frantic situations, helping ensure the best outcomes for people whose lives may be hanging in the balance.
"Once the back doors of the ambulance open, you tune everything out and you do what you have to do. You focus on that, and only that, and you give it 100-percent," said Marilyn Olson, an advanced Emergency Medical Technician in Froid who has served with Roosevelt Medical Center's EMS service since 1989.
Olson lives in Froid and is one of several dozen EMS members who serve as an ambulance crew member. Always having a passion for helping others, Olson once wanted to be a nurse, and joined the ambulance crew when a friend began teaching a medical responder class in the area.
Bev Raaum, an RMC EMT who has responded to over 1,300 calls over the last 20 years, originally joined the service because her husband was on it. "I thought it was something we could do together," she recalled. "Today, he says I'm married to the ambulance service, and he's right," she laughed.
Rauum said the biggest challenge EMTs face in rural areas today is the difficulty of recruiting other EMTs. She attributes this to the amount of training and annual continuing-education necessary to stay current with changing protocols and advances in medical equipment
EMS crew members easily recall stories about the spontaneous nature of getting called out to a scene. "I've responded with half of a haircut. I've been dressed and ready to walk the runway at a fashion show," Olson said. Other members have had similar circumstances. Raaum has left a spelling bee, several school recitals and even communion. "People often can just tell that you are heading to the scene and they help too. Several times I have been on my way to the ambulance garage and gotten a ride on the back of a four-wheeler," Raaum said.
Liz Leinen, the business office manager at Roosevelt Medical Center, joined the ambulance crew last year as a way to continue growing as a person while giving back to her community. "When I go on scene I try to take myself out of the equation. I pray that God will work through me and that the outcome will be a positive one for that patient," Leinen said.
For the last seven years, Erin Solem, a teacher and EMT, has also served as a crew member because she enjoys helping others. "People don't appreciate the ambulance service until they are in their time of need. We go unnoticed for the most part. It's when the people you have helped say thank you, that you receive the real reward," Solem said.
For many emergency responders, serving with the ambulance service is part of serving a higher purpose and being a part of something bigger than themselves. "I have always felt like this was my calling. It was what I was meant to do," Raaum said. Seeing the people she has helped while out in the community and receiving their thanks and gratitude has been an added bonus. "It's not all about guts and glory. It's about holding someone's hand on the worst day of their life," Raaum said.
The history of how emergency medical services got started in the Eastern Montana area dates back at least as far as the early 1980s when Roosevelt County created an EMS Coordinator position and dispersed three ambulances for use to Poplar, Wolf Point and Culbertson hospitals. The coordinator was responsible for training, supplying medical equipment, and managing responders. Responders would begin caring for the patient until the ambulance arrived on scene, but were not allowed to transport them. In the mid-1990s the County dissolved the program, citing difficultly in managing such a large response area and EMS was absorbed by the local hospitals. They were allowed to keep the ambulances in an effort to keep the services going.
In the early days, they didn't even have an ambulance in Bainville. They responded in a pickup, triaged the patient with a county supplied jump-kit and waited there for the ambulance to arrive. Today, RMC has four ambulances, with one serving Froid, Bainville and Culbertson and one back-up ambulance stationed at RMC.
Today, the crew operates on an all-call system, meaning that all crew members are on call, everyday. Once a page goes out that there's an emergency, anyone who can respond to the call answers the page, and responds. Volunteer responders receive a stipend for each call they respond to and attend monthly meetings and training sessions.
"We are so fortunate to have area business owners who allow EMTs and Drivers to leave their jobs at a moment's notice to respond to others in their times of need. It's because of their kindness that many community members are able to get the emergency care they need when it really counts," said Deb Heckmun, EMS Director for RMC.
Last year, the EMS department implemented a cadet recruitment program that gives potential EMTs an opportunity to go on calls to see if they want to continue to take the class. It also helps provide those enrolled in the class a clearer understanding of what to expect after they complete it.
If you are interested in becoming an EMT, contact Deb Heckmun at (406) 787-6468.