For local residents experiencing a health emergency, an intentional and nurtured collaboration between the Nash County EMS and the Nash UNC Health Care Emergency Department has proven to be a lifesaving partnership.

Turnaround times for EMS patients were over 50 minutes in May 2018. Today, the average turnaround time is 15 minutes — way below the hospital’s goal of 20 minutes.

Emergency Department Director Kim Langston says decreasing turnaround times for EMS patients is important.

“When EMS brings in a patient, it is important to return EMS back into the community to continue to care for our community patients. There are only a certain number of trucks within our community. Returning EMS quickly into the community will help decrease their response time to the patient,” Langston said.

Scott Strufe has been an emergency first responder since 1996 and currently serves as the Nash County EMS director. He says he has seen first-hand how patients who enter the Nash UNC emergency department are getting better treatment at a faster rate than in years past.

“There really seems to be a management-led effort to improve the flow of care in the emergency department. I’m talking about the processes, the communication and the relationships we have with emergency room staff — all these things work together to improve outcomes for patients,” Strufe said. “And that’s what we’re all working toward — good health outcomes for people in our community.”

Strufe said Langston has made great changes in improving emergency room care. “She’s a great person to work with and has been the best at keeping the lines of communication open between her staff and EMS,” he said.

Strufe said when Nash County EMS gets a request for an emergency service call, EMS decides which health care facility is closest and most appropriate to care for the patient in need.

“Eighty-percent of our calls are transported to Nash UNC. Some of the calls in the western part of the county may go to a Wake County hospital and some in the east go to Vidant in Pitt County,” Strufe said.

Strufe estimates Nash County EMS transports about 12,000 patients a year.

Paramedic Jacob Manning says he’s seen a big difference in patient outcomes in the past year, especially with the opening of Nash UNC’s cardiac unit and advances in the care the hospital provides for stroke patients.

“Part of my job is to manage the data about cardiac patients so we know how our processes are working and what the outcomes for our patients are. One of the changes I’ve seen at Nash UNC in the past few years that I like the most is there is one person I communicate with about cardiac patients. She shares data with me, I share information with her and we work together to see if there is something we need to change or improve,” Manning said. “It’s just so much more efficient than calling around to several people to get to the right person. I think this collaboration helps us all to do our jobs better.”

Nash UNC clinical ER nurse Ashley Blackburn concurs with Strufe and Manning and believes a good flow of communication leads to good patient care. Blackburn has a background in EMS.

“I can’t say enough about how lucky we are to have the EMS professionals we have here in Nash County,” Blackburn said. “They are all so professional, skilled and so good to work with.”

Blackburn said she values the relationships she’s formed with the Nash County EMS professionals and considers all of the EMTs and paramedics she interacts with as partners in providing emergency health care.

“It’s so important that we all communicate with each other. We really rely on the paramedics to relay information from the field to us here. Sometimes those observations are key and make a big difference in getting the patient the best care,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said she thinks there is a level of trust between the EMS responders and the emergency room staff that allows them all to work well together.

“We all believe in each other and know we’re all in this together with the same goal — to save lives,” Blackburn said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with.”