Our service spotlight for this issue is Vernon County Ambulance District (VCAD). Vernon County is in the southwest corner of Missouri at the intersection of highways 49 and 54. Nevada is the county seat and is the home of Cottey College, the Bushwhacker Museum, and the historic State Hospital. VCAD began providing service to Vernon County in June 1978.
The staff includes four administration, 10 full-time, and 14 part-time crew members consisting of 11 paramedics and 16 EMTs. There are a total of six ambulances, one rescue truck with extrication equipment, and one ATV for rural access. Two ambulances keep the service area covered and operate out of one station located in the center of Nevada, which is the county seat.
VCAD serves a population of more than 20,000 people and covers 837 square miles covering Nevada, and the outlying communities of Bronaugh, Schell City, Moundville, Sheldon, Milo, Walker, Metz, Hume, Deerfield, Stotesbury, Richards, and Harwood. The coverage area is located an average of 100 miles south of Kansas City and 60 miles north of Joplin, which contain the closest trauma, STEMI, and Stroke centers.
Due to covering 837 square miles with two ambulances at a central location, and the closest trauma center or STEMI center being over an hour away, VCAD crews are tasked with providing critical care to their patients for extended periods of time or finding alternative forms of transportation such as air transport. The crews use critical thinking, protocols, and whatever resources are available to care for their patients to the best of their ability.
Required training for VCAD crew includes: BLS, ACLS, PALS, PHTLS, EVOC, and NIMS. Protocols are broad with Cardioversion, Cricothyrotomy, RSI, IO, TXA, and Pleural Decompression. All trucks are equipped with power cots and power load systems, along with ventilators for long distance transfers and lung protective measures. Administration strongly supports their crew members’ well-being and safety. During COVID, they were able to apply for and be granted a Missouri Employer Mutual (MEM) grant, which allowed them to purchase Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) systems for their employees.
As with many EMS stations, the crew members have worked together long enough to have developed a family atmosphere. With approximately 428 combined years of experience, VCAD recognizes the importance of building those relationships so each person can truly feel they have each other’s back and have the trust needed when they are walking into situations that occasionally require a crew to have nonverbal communication and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Crew members have officiated each other’s weddings, babysat each other’s children, attended concerts, and gone shopping together.
VCAD is an active participant in community activities. They partner with the local schools to certify students in CPR. They participate in resource fairs and career days as well as provide standbys for school sporting events, rodeos, racetrack events, and motor cross events. They participate in Bushwhacker Days, an annual Civil War history event, and participate in area parades.
They also encourage interest in EMS and the medical field in general by holding show-and-tell events to the schools and having first responder and EMT classes at their station. They also partner with the Nevada Regional Technical Center’s Health Sciences class, MSSU, Crowder, and surrounding entities EMT/EMT-P classes for students to get added experience in the medical field. Students are allowed to shadow staff on the rig and observe all calls received.
Disaster drills are used to perfect organizational response to a particular emergency situation, such as extreme weather, bomb threat, or multi-vehicle accidents. Effective disaster drills are realistic, interactive, and moderately stressful for participants. VCAD participates annually in disaster drills, in conjunction with local police, sheriff, fire, hospital and other emergency personnel. Staff also participate in the local high school DocuDrama, during Safe and Sober Week.
Bushwhacker Days happens in early June each year, so make plans to check it out next summer for carnival rides, a quilt show, food, a parade, concerts, and more!