CGH Medical Center’s EMS personnel help the community, support each other

CGH Paramedic Kevin Allen, CGH Assistant Director/Education Coordinator & TC Coordinator for CPR and ACLS Chad Hartman, and CGH EMT Tom Hartman are shown at CGH Medical Center, Sterling.

Editor’s Note: This story originally was published in the Thursday, May 2, edition of the Sterling Gazette and Dixon Telegraph. In that version, the name of the medical center was misspelled in some instances. The story has been updated with the correct spelling. We apologize for the error.

STERLINGCGH Medical Center’s EMS staff is like a family – a supportive family.

“I’m proud of our staff,” said Chad Hartman, assistant director/education coordinator at the Sterling-based hospital system. “I’m proud of the commitment and dedication they put forth every day to provide the best emergency care they can.”

Hartman also is proud of the fact that staff members support each other. That’s part of the family aspect of the job.

“I’m proud of our staff. I’m proud of the commitment and dedication they put forth every day to provide the best emergency care they can.”

—  Chad Hartman, CGH assistant director/education coordinator

“You need peer support in this field,” he said. “If you have a tough day and you’re suffering a bit, you can’t talk about what happened with your family because of HIPAA rules. You need the support of your peers.”

In addition to supporting co-workers, many other personality traits are needed for a career in EMS, Hartman said. Among them are problem-solving, flexibility, adaptability, compassion, empathy and teamwork.

“And you have to be able to think on your toes and be mentally tough,” he said. “No hour is the same, no call is the same. Each is different.

“Sometimes you come back after a rough call, your pager goes off, and you have to get right back out there. That’s why you need to be mentally tough.”

A desire for public service is another needed trait, Hartman said.

“We’re a public service agency,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. “We’re here to serve. It’s our opportunity to give back to the community in its time of need. That’s why we got into this profession.”

CGH Medical Center has 33 EMS personnel on staff, 25 of them paramedics. The others are EMT-Basics. There are 21 full-time staff members and 12 part-timers who come in as needed.

There are six ambulances and one in reserve.

Two crews are on duty 24 hours a day. There are also 12-hour shifts, one from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. that’s called the power shift because it can be busy, and the other from noon to midnight.

Those on a 24-hour shift are off for 48 hours between shifts. Those who do 12-hour shifts work four in one week and three the next week. Sleeping facilities are available at CGH’s Sterling and Rock Falls locations.

The conventional wisdom is many calls come in during weekend nights. Not true, Hartman said.

“There’s no rhyme or reason for when calls come in. We’re busy all the time,” he said.

When a call comes in, CGH’s EMTs are out the door in two minutes or less, Hartman said, sometimes in as little as about 30 seconds.

It shouldn’t take longer than five minutes to get to a call in the hospital’s service area, Hartman said, although there are variables like bad weather or dangerous roads.

One decision that is made early in a call is whether an ambulance will be heading there with its siren and lights on. If someone has a fractured arm and it’s not an emergency, perhaps the siren and lights aren’t needed, Hartman said.

“We must make sure an ambulance needs to go through intersections to get to a call,” he said.

CGH ambulances respond to about 6,500 calls a year, which averages to about 17 calls in each 24-hour period.

Hartman said CGH’s ambulance service is top-notch because of its focus on education and training, modern equipment, and support from the hospital’s administration and Whiteside County.

A battery-operated cot and trolley lift that help ambulance staff get a patient into the ambulance are part of the modern equipment.

“There’s no more saying ‘1-2-3′ and lifting a patient,” Hartman said. “That’s cut down on EMTs’ back injuries.

Interested in becoming an EMT? You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or general education diploma.

“I advise people who are interested in the field to keep their driving record clean,” Hartman said. “If you’re going to be driving a $300,000-plus vehicle, we don’t want someone who’s had a lot of accidents.”

An EMT-Basic certificate can be obtained in about five months. A paramedic certificate takes about 11 months. Both certificates can be obtained through Sauk Valley Community College or these medical facilities in Rockford: UW Health, OSF Saint Anthony and Mercyhealth.

CGH’s EMS service began in the late 1980s, Hartman said. He’s been employed at CGH since 2000.

Hartman also is the coordinator of the American Heart Association Training Center at CGH, overseeing the 43 CPR instructors who teach and certify individuals in CPR and first aid.

He also oversees the instruction of 10 Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support instructors who teach and certify staff at CGH.

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