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'Means a lot': St. Vincent Healthcare honors first responders with barbeque for National EMS Week

National Emergency Medical Service Week authorized in 1974 by President Ford
Outside of the barbeque for EMS Week
Posted at 5:10 PM, May 26, 2023

BILLINGS — According to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, there are around 4,600 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in Montana—and this week, they’re being honored for their commitment to saving lives.

National Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Week is an annual time of recognition for our country's first responders. On Friday, a barbeque at St. Vincent Healthcare was held as a thank you.

"We really want to honor the work and the partnership that we have with AMR and our fire department. Transport is definitely the first echelon of care, and they do a great job of taking care of patients en route to our emergency department," said Chris Spoja, the chief medical officer at St. Vincent, on Friday. "We want to honor that relationship and show our appreciation for all of the great work that they do for the community."

Chris Spoja
Chris Spoja

Hamburgers and cheeseburgers were hot on the grill as first responders showed up in groups.

“This is something we do for the EMTs and for the crews to help them feel appreciated," Spoja said. "Hopefully add a little bit of resiliency to their mentality. And we just want them to know how much they’re appreciated."

And that appreciation means the world to the responders.

“I have never been here before to this event. But it means a lot for them to show appreciation for us," said Rob Compson, a fire captain for the Billings Fire Department, on Friday. "I was out here for a nice little burger. We’re really glad to be here and get to see them on another side besides just on calls."

Rob Compson
Rob Compson

According to the American Ambulance Association, roughly one-third of all EMTs quit in 2021, meaning recognizing those who stuck with the trade is crucial.

“They call us to let us know what’s coming in, give us a report on how those patients are doing," Spoja said. "Give us prep time for when we need our trauma service activated. Or stroke, any of those things."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists EMTs as one of the lowest-paying jobs in healthcare—even though they are on the front lines saving lives.

"If there is an accident, we have that golden hour. First hour of care is the most important care that that trauma patient will receive," Spoja said. "They are vitally important to that initial care that the patient receives."

Emergency responders showed up in groups for the barbeque
Emergency responders showed up in groups for the barbeque

And while a nationwide shortage of EMTs still plagues the country, Yellowstone County is lucky to have these men and women who stuck with it.

"I hope they feel good," Spoja said. "I hope they feel as good about our partnership as we do."

To learn more about National EMS Week, click here.

“It was really good," Compson said. "I had a nice burger, so now I can save my lunch I have at the station for tomorrow."