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Ambulance service earns top honor

WORTHINGTON -- The members of the Worthington Ambulance Service received a big pat on the back recently. At the regional Minnesota Emergency Medical Service Association meeting, the Worthington crew was named the Ambulance Service of the Year.

"It's nice to get some recognition," said Dave McNab, Worthington Regional Hospital ambulance manager. "These days, a lot of times, with the new patient privacy regulations, you don't get to find out much about how a situation turned out, so you don't get that feedback. ... And a pat on the back never hurts."

The Worthington Ambulance Service, which operates out of the WRH emergency room, currently has 18 emergency medical technicians who answer the page to about 1,150 ambulance calls a year. That averages out to more than three calls per day.

According to McNab, the Worthington service is fortunate to have two crews on call at all times, with a primary shift and a secondary shirt scheduled during both the day and the evening.

"It gives you peace of mind when you have to go out on a transfer or a long call," said McNab.

Even with the 24-hour double coverage, there are times when other EMTs are pressed into service.

"We're a very busy service. People would be surprised how often we have multiple calls going on," said Stephen Heimgartner, a Worthington EMT with eight years of experience. "I remember on Thanksgiving one time, another guy and I started out early in the morning and didn't get done until midnight, and we never stopped."

"If we have something serious going on, people who aren't on call usually show up, just drop what they're doing and come down to help," explained McNab. "It's the teamwork thing. You've got to have the whole crew and be supportive of each other so there's no one or two people who are doing it. It takes the whole group, and they have to be committed, or it just doesn't work."

The teamwork concept extends outside the 18 EMTS, too, McNab emphasized.

"What makes our job so much easier is the support system, from the state patrol, the local police, the area rescue squads," he said, "those people who are already on the scene when we get there. They play an important role in the whole picture."

When accepting the award at the MEMSA event, McNab acknowledged another segment of the team -- the crewmembers' families.

"Equally important are those significant others -- spouses, families," he said. "Their support is just as greatly appreciated."

On the Worthington service, an EMT's job doesn't end when a patient arrives at the ER. The crew member usually stays with the patient, helping out as needed and providing that extra level of comfort in a time of trauma, as well as learning from the doctors and nurses.

"We're fortunate to have a hospital-based ambulance," noted Heimgartner, "because we get to help out in the ER. That helps improve our knowledge and skills and maybe frees somebody else up to help another patient. The whole organization definitely has to work together in some of these cases."

The Worthington Ambulance Service has previously been recognized by MEMSA, last receiving the award in 2001 and earning runner-up honors in 1997.

A couple of individuals from southwest Minnesota were singled out for honors during the MEMSA banquet. Worthington EMT Tom Lemke received the President's Award, which recognizes an outstanding crew member who "dedicates themselves to their work and loves doing it." The EMT of the Year Award was presented to Tim Nolte of the Murray County Ambulance Association in Slayton.

"Tim is a very devoted, caring person who truly deserved this award," said Linda Brouwer of Leota, who serves as the state historian for MEMSA. "Tim is the kind of EMT that an ambulance service would be proud to have as a team member/leader. This nomination will now be forwarded to the National EMS committee, and he will be considered for the EMT of the Year at the national level."

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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