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“Safety is not Proprietary”

Posted 273 days ago ago by Admin

By Jana Williams, president & CEO, Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS)

I knew at age 16 I wanted to fly when I saw my first medical helicopter pick up a trauma patient in front of me. I began my career in air medicine at the ripe old age of 24 as a flight nurse at Lifeline in Rockford, Illinois.  It was several years later that safety took on a new meaning when I later flew for AirLife-Denver in Colorado, and our program experienced a fatal crash that rocked me to my core. I was afforded the resources to heal and saw meaningful industry-wide changes develop over time. I still applaud AirLife’s leadership who first supported their people and then mined for lessons learned, sharing them broadly to enhance safety for all.  When I became their leader several years later, I’d sometimes get questioned why we invited neighboring programs to attend our safety offerings and my answer was always the same—”Safety is not proprietary.”  

The safety of medical transport operations and the well-being of all first responders became a personal and professional driver for me, one that has shaped my career choices over the 30 years I’ve worked in the EMS and medical transport industry. In April 2023, I accepted the position as the new president and CEO of the Association of Air Medical Services, and I bring my passion for operational safety and crew support into this role. 

It's been just a few months for me at the AAMS helm, and admittedly, it has sometimes felt a bit like drinking from a firehose. I know medical transport providers can relate because they face significant and constant challenges every day at the crossroads of two realm giants: healthcare and aviation. The result is regulatory and operational challenges from all sides—addressing workforce staffing gaps, ensuring equitable reimbursement, overcoming supply issues, making significant training commitments, navigating implementation of new regulations, just to name a few.

But you know what always stays consistent, and is absolute common ground for each and every medical transport provider? The safety of our crews and our patients! 

We all, each of us, personally own a part of the operational safety initiative. Of course, equipment advances are amazing, adherence to safety policies and guidelines is important, and quality training is critical. Aside from these valuable tools, we all need to understand and embrace our individual responsibility and accountability in this space. Safety is not proprietary; rather it is something to be promoted and shared among all entities for improved service, support, and outcomes for all.

It is my sincere desire to be a unifying presence in our community. I genuinely endeavor to collaborate wherever possible and enjoy bridging distances, even across traditional lines. For me at AAMS, that means further spotlighting safety as a cornerstone of all we do, finding ways to better support our people, and working with allied organizations to keep evolving and advancing our strengths. I know our patients, crews, and communities expect and deserve nothing less.  

If you are looking for ways to become more involved in safety related issues and/or seeking training opportunities, AAMS has options to consider. 

First, we offer the Safety Management Training Academy. Open to all disciplines, this two-year program provides comprehensive knowledge in all aspects of the management of safety across the entire enterprise of medical transportation, with special emphasis on safety management systems, patient safety, aviation/vehicle operational safety and workplace safety.

Secondly, please consider joining us for the 2023 Air Medical Transport Conference in Columbus, Ohio (October 23-25). AMTC enjoys a rich history of bringing healthcare and aviation together under one roof with a strong focus on education and collaboration. The AAMS team is excited to share a refreshed experience, balancing tradition and transformation. There are several educational offerings in both crew and patient safety. Planning is also underway for a safety roundtable for key stakeholders, taking advantage of the fact that many participants will already be in town for the AMTC. Stay tuned for details as they become available.

I very much look forward to the year ahead; I’m approaching my role at AAMS with deep respect, genuine curiosity, earnest collaboration, and a drive for a brighter future, with an emphasis on “we” and the impacts and challenges we all make and face collectively. I want medical transport and all of us to flourish long into the future. 

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