Building and recognizing area volunteerism
The South Central Wyoming Emergency Medical Services, SCWEMS, has recognized the Wyoming Department of Fish and Game for being an employer that makes it easy for employees to dedicate their time to the volunteer ambulance service.
Jeb Stewart, the chairman of the SCWEMS Joint Powers Board, said employers that allow their employees the flexibility to take time to donate their time to the ambulance service are a key part of what has made the volunteer model work, and it was important for SCWEMS to recognize them.
SCWEMS volunteers are paid $1 per hour while on call and earn $50 every time they transport a patient, Stewart said.
For volunteers, the money isn’t the point: the point is to help neighbors and visitors to the county by proving a critically-needed basic healthcare service.
“We have to look at how sustainable the model is, and looking at trends we have to recognize that volunteerism is on the decline in rural areas,” he added. “It’s here and we can see, smell and taste it.”
According to Stewart, because of that decline in volunteerism and a high turnover, SCWEMS has had to begin offering a class for new EMTs every year just to keep the ranks filled.
In the past, the class was only offered once every several years to keep the ranks filled, but the organization has held a class every year for the last three to keep ambulances as fully staffed as possible.
“We are trying to attract volunteers and to capture that sense of volunteerism,” Stewart said, adding that employers who grant flexibility to employees are a key part of ensuring the volunteer model of SCWEMS remains viable into the future.
“This is a critical service, we have to have it,” Stewart said. “It’s important to recognize what the providers are doing, but employers are other team players who don’t get recognized as they should.
“I like to call the employers silent partners,” he said. “It’s a very delicate system and to work right we need the support of employers.
This year, SCWEMS is honoring Wyoming Game and Fish as an employer that works hard to ensure employees who volunteer for the service can fulfill their critical duties.
Game and Fish’s decision to allow employees flexibility to volunteer means medics like Ryan Kenneda, senior game warden for Wyoming Game and Fish at Elk Mountain and a SCWEMS volunteer, to fulfill both critical duties.
“He’s a great medic,” Stewart said. “A nice person and a good medic; he’s the kind of person we want to attract to the service, and because his boss Scott Talbott at Game and Fish allows him to go, it’s easier to attract and retain him.”
“We have to capture that sense of volunteerism, that’s the only way it can be done,” Stewart said.