10 Ways to Celebrate EMS Practitioners

EMS Week is an opportunity for EMS agencies and healthcare partners such as hospitals and nursing homes, to recognize EMS practitioners for a job well done. Making an effort to thank practitioners will go a long way toward motivating EMTs and Paramedics for the challenges of the year ahead, and inspiring them to strive for their personal best!

Here are 10 ways to celebrate EMS practitioners.

1. Feed your team's soul with lunch (or breakfast or dinner)! Order pizzas, host a pancake breakfast or cater a lunch or dinner for each shift. Bring in a food truck, or host a cookout for employees and their families. You might need to host your event on two separate days to make sure everyone has a change to attend. Take photos and share them with your team!

2. Give out goody bags and other swag. Seek out donated gifts from local businesses like movie passes and other area favorites. Remind local businesses that EMS is there 24-7 to keep the community safe and healthy, and their donation would mean a lot to hardworking crews. You can also order commemorative baseball caps, T-shirts, pins, duffle bags, mugs, pens and key chains to show appreciation to your staff.

3. Treat your team to discounts at select spots. Work with local restaurants or entertainment groups for EMS team discounts on meals, movies and local amusement parks. If you have more sizable items to give away, like gift cards or other merchandise, then consider holding a raffle.

4. Arrange dunk tanks and magic shows. If you host an event that includes the families of your team, make it fun for the kids by bringing in inflatable slides, face painting and other entertainment – like a dunk tank featuring the chief or CEO.

5. Recognize a CPR save. Few moments are more meaningful for EMS practitioners than meeting someone whose life they helped to save. Share the story with the media. It will have added power if the person whose life was saved is willing to participate in media interviews.

6. Create an “EMT or Paramedic of the Year” award. Ask for nominations from your crew. Announce your winner during EMS Week and notify the local media. Or, host an awards dinner to recognize the winner and all of your EMS practitioners.

7. Bring in a speaker. Bring in a speaker who will inspire your staff. The Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania has invited Dr. Comilla Sasson, the attending emergency room physician at University of Colorado Hospital whose ED treated 23 patients shot in the Aurora movie theater. This year, they've invited Dr. Leon Sanchez of Beth Israel Medical Center, who will speak about the lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombing. Acadian Ambulance in Lafayette, La. has brought in NFL player and 2010 Superbowl MVP Drew Brees, former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2014, Acadian in Austin, Texas is bringing in Alex Sheen, "because I said I would," a non-profit, grassroots organization in which participants promise to work toward bettering themselves or their communities through volunteering, by starting charitable drives or through simple acts of kindness.

8. Honor fallen EMS personnel. If any EMS personnel have died or been killed in the line of duty, EMS Week can be a time to honor their sacrifice. The National EMS Memorial Bike Ride is also held this week. This year, rides will be held from Boston to Washington, D.C. and from Paintsville, Ky. to Washington, D.C. (A third ride will be held in Colorado in June.)

9. Light the Empire State building. OK, we know not everyone can do this. But every year, New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (FDNY EMS) arranges to have the Empire State Building lit up in blue (for the Star of Life); white (for the FDNY EMS Patch); and yellow (for the state EMS patch.)

10. Say thank you. Your EMS organization might not have much in the way of EMS Week budget. So make your celebration a potluck, and don't underestimate the power of a heartfelt "thank you."