New program focuses on EMS personnel wellness in Wayne Township

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – First responders are there to help when you call 911.

Their departments are also working to make sure their EMS personnel are taken of, as well.

At Wayne Township Fire Department on Indianapolis’ west side, there’s a new program to make sure EMT’s and paramedics are prepared for the physical parts of the job – and to make sure they’re doing it safely.

Right now, their firefighters go through a work performance evaluation every year, and all paramedics and firefighters receive physical evaluations.

They’ve also had peer fitness trainers on staff to check out how personnel are doing movements, to help reduce injury.

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But, starting next year, all EMS workers at Wayne Township will also go through a work performance evaluation.

“One of the things we did to help make sure our employees are staying healthy enough and able to do the job A. ‘safely’, and B. ‘effectively’, is that we worked with a committee of our EMS providers, and brought in exercise science experts, and we developed that work performance evaluation for our EMS providers,” said Wayne Township EMS Division Chief Justin Sparks. “Firefighters historically do that every year, but it’s not really ever been done before in the EMS community. So we had to build something from ground up. We’ve done multiple studies, and we’re evaluating the mechanics of the moves we’re making.”

The evaluation takes into account everything paramedics and EMT’s do – from moving equipment, to cots, to moving and lifting people and maneuvering stairs.

“There was never really a way to test EMS workers to make sure they’re capable of doing the different demands. So the new work performance evaluation I think, is an excellent opportunity to gauge where we stand, and create a standard, and that level of excellence you want people to operate at,” said Wayne Township Paramedic Michael Beisel.

Dr. Steven Moffatt works at Public Safety Medical, a medical practice located in Indianapolis that provides wellness services, including medical, fitness and psychological evaluations for public safety agencies.

Dr. Moffatt takes care of more than 200 fire and police departments across the state.

Of EMS personnel, he says, “Their job is very demanding. They often times have shift work, which has its own difficulties with regards to stress, and increasing blood pressure and heart disease. Along with just the lifting, and very difficult circumstances where the situation is not always perfect, they’re placed at risk for muscular strain, low back problems, shoulder problems, with regards to the types of situations they get into to transport people.”

Dr. Moffatt said Wayne Township is leading the way in teaching the risks of the job.

“Wayne [Township] is really taking the lead in a lot of ways, in trying to come alongside their EMS providers, to recognize their risks, and to provide an environment where they can share those experiences,” added Moffatt.

Wayne Township says they’re hoping to fully implement this evaluation next year.

Indianapolis EMS spokesperson Carl Rochelle says after evaluating different programs, they chose last fall to start a Functional Movement System. Rochelle says that consists of an initial screening by a trained individual, who is looking at the specific movements an EMT or paramedic would do on a daily basis.

Then, a program is assigned, specific to the needs of that individual. The goal is to keep injuries down. Rochelle says the initial request for participation was voluntary, and about a third of employees took part. All new employees also take part now, and they’re planning to open enrollment again in July for others.