Life in the 'E.R.'
From ambulance to helipad, paramedic duo is ready for anything, dedicated to 'the Golden Hour' of care.
It's just after 6 o'clock on a Thursday night in the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center emergency room, and Julie Scadden and Jeanne Tiedeman are in the midst of a break from the hustle and bustle of E.R. life.
Scadden, a paramedic at the hospital, and Tiedeman, who splits time between the respiratory and emergency medical team (EMT) units at BVRMC, have been able to relax for a short time, as the status in the emergency room is quiet for the time being.
Quiet is a good word for people working in the E.R. On many nights, Scadden and Tiedeman must hop in one of the hospital's ambulances and head out to assist with an accident somewhere around the area. Or a person having a heart attack at their home. Or rushing to the scene of a person needing CPR.
Light blaring and sirens screaming, the two must help transport those needing immediate medical attention to the E.R., where other BVRMC employees work hard to stabilize and help the victims as best they can.
Scadden and Tiedeman, who each have a 24-hour shift and a 12-hour shift at least once a week, must constantly be on call, for they are the first line in a highly motivated and dedicated team working to help save lives in the Buena Vista County area.
While that constant state of alert can be stressful at times, both said that keeps them prepared to do their job at all times.
"It definitely keeps you on your toes," Scadden, who has been a BVRMC paramedic for two and a half years, said. "You have to be prepared for anything and everything. There are times when it's slow, and then all of a sudden you have to shift gears and be able to handle a lot of activity."
"You never know when it is or is not going to be busy at all, and we have to be ready when the busy times come," Tiedeman said. "Some weeks are slow and some weeks are non-stop, which make the job challenging at times, but it's all about being able to provide care for the patients and help them out."
While Scadden and Tiedeman do not hold the letters M.D. behind their names, they do hold the respect of the doctors who depend on them.
Dr. Paul Barber said the jobs of the EMT employees are equally important as those of the medical doctors and surgeons on staff.
"I think they're really the specialists for rescuing people in the field," Dr. Paul Barber said. "They are the front line in our system, and in that respect, they're really like medics in World War II who
went out to the battlefields and rescued the wounded. Their job is just like that. They provide such an important service and they play such an important role."
As soon as a call is placed to the emergency room headquarters on the first floor of the medical center requesting an ambulance, Scadden and Tiedeman hurry out to one of the ambulances located in the rear of the building, which they then use to rush to the victim's location.
After putting the person on a stretcher in the back of the vehicle, the pair (one drives while the other assists the victim) is able to use phones installed in the back of the ambulance to communicate with hospital personnel waiting for the patient in the emergency room, relaying the victim's status and the reasons for their injuries.
They can also tell the other doctors and nurses whether the patient needs to be transported to a better equipped hospital in a metropolitan area such as Sioux City or Omaha, and said their ability to communicate with those at BVRMC can literally be life-saving.
"All patients have a Golden Hour, which means that if proper care is given to them within an hour then they have a much better chance of useful survival where their life is productive," Scadden said. "We pretty much know right away if the patients need to be transported to another facility within the first minute of meeting the patient, and the ability to tell others that and have a helicopter ready on our new helipad to transport people to other places makes all the difference in the world."
"Our new helipad has also helped tremendously," Tiedeman said. "Before we got that here we had to run out to the airport with the patient, which takes a few minutes. It takes 28 minutes to fly to Sioux City, and by the time you do that and then add the time it takes to get the patient to the hospital from the airport, a lot of that Golden Hour is up already. That makes the ability to fly out from the hospital very significant."
While Scadden and Tiedeman play the main roles in the emergency medical service process, they also said that a lot of credit should go to members of other Storm Lake emergency departments such as the police and fire squads.
"EMS is truly a system and it truly takes a team effort from everybody involved," Scadden said. "We have amazing police and fire departments here in town. There are many times when the police are at a scene before we can get there and help administer CPR and help with the victims, and they deserve a lot of credit and praise for their work."
Both women said they enjoy their jobs immensely, and said their main concern is the well-being of all of the citizens of Storm Lake and the surrounding area.
"It's very rewarding to be able to help people in such a positive way," Scadden said. "We're able to make a difference in people's lives, and when you get right down to it, I think that's one of the best things anyone can do for someone else. Being able to make a difference."