CATES: Memorial Day appreciation

By Carol A. Cates, MSN, MBA, RN

Chief Nursing Officer

Odessa Regional Medical Center

I just returned from a trip that I consider an incredible honor, serving as part of the medical support team for the Permian Basin Honor Flight. Working with this incredible group of people, whose entire mission is to pay homage to our military veterans, is one of the best things I get to do. Today, on Memorial Day, I wanted to thank those who served and especially those people and their families that gave the ultimate sacrifice, their life in service to this country.

There is another group I hold in equally high regard to our soldiers in terms of their willingness to give their lives for others, those people are our first responders. For Memorial Day, as it falls at the conclusion of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Week, I want to talk about the incredible service our EMS teams, particularly Odessa Fire Rescue, provide to Odessa and Ector County.

One of the best things about writing in the paper every week is I occasionally get to brag about people that I am so grateful to have in my life. Today, those people are the amazing men and women that serve in our local EMS companies. We have several private companies that help with transports between health care facilities or contract with individuals to provide their highly specialized transports. Some of those companies also support the public ambulance services by providing back up when the public services are overwhelmed. The work they do in transporting people, many of which are clinging to life, is very special and I wanted to recognize them and say Thank You.

The biggest group of EMS providers we have in Odessa, however, is the incredible team at Odessa Fire Rescue (OFR). I am constantly awed by the incredible work they do every day, and the ways they constantly strive to make their service the highest possible quality. One of the best ways I can explain how well they function is to talk about the recent leadership change.

You might be aware, but if not, nearly the entire senior leadership team has changed in the last few months, with a new Chief and several new Assistant Chiefs. But you would never know from the outside looking in because there hasn’t been as much a blip in the level of service they provide.

Personally, I think that is because of their constant focus on team support and high-quality care. For instance, every month, they have a meeting where they review several medical runs. They include the team that was on scene, the leadership team, the medical director, the ED physicians, the hospitals, and dispatch. Everything from the 911 call to how the patient fared in the hospital and their discharge from the hospital is discussed to evaluate, learn, and support each other in often some very difficult cases. It is a process that creates a team that has a huge tradition of excellence.

Some of the things that OFR has done to demonstrate their excellence. These first two speak of an ongoing culture of excellence, the first 911 service in Texas, and the first users of the “Jaws of Life” in Texas. They continue that today in their cutting-edge technology of CPR assistive devices, monitors that can transmit data from the field directly to the ED physicians, and protocols that are constantly being evaluated to make sure they are doing the most up-to-date care. That also shows in their being awarded the American Heart Association 2022 Mission Lifeline Gold Plus recognition. They are one of only a few EMS systems in Texas to get this award. 2022 is not the first year they have gotten that award, they have gotten it every year for many years now.

And they manage that with a very busy system. Last year OFR made 18,223 runs. The population of Ector County is about 165,000. That means 11% of our population had an EMS run made for them in 2022. In contrast, per the most recent public reporting, the metro Houston area in 2021 had 387,547 runs with a population of 6.2 million, which is only 6.3% of that population.

I cannot say enough about the amazing men and women at OFR. They are the ones who run towards danger, not away, and they do it to save the life of someone else. Today, as we remember those who have given their lives for this country, say a prayer for our soldiers and consider adding in our first responders as well. They too deserve gratitude on this Memorial Day.