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Emergency Medical Services at the Crossroads
sonnel initiated treatment and transported the wounded to field hospitals (Pozner et al., 2004).
This model was emulated by Americans during the Civil War. General Jonathan Letterman, a Union military surgeon, created the first organized system in the United States to treat and transport injured patients. Based on this experience, the first civilian-run, hospital-based ambulance service began in Cincinnati in 1865. The first municipally based EMS began in New York City in 1869 (NHTSA, 1996).
In 1910, the American Red Cross began providing first-aid training programs across the country, initiating an organized effort to improve civilian bystander care. During World Wars I and II, further advances were made in EMS, although typically these were not replicated in the civilian setting until much later (Pozner et al., 2004). Following World War II, city EMS activities were for the most part run by municipal hospitals and fire departments. In smaller communities, funeral home hearses often served as ambulances because they were the only vehicle capable of transporting patients quickly in stretchers. With the advent of federal involvement in EMS in the early 1970s and the articulation of standards at the state and regional levels, these EMS providers were gradually replaced by others, including third-service providers, fire departments, rescue squads, and private ambulances (NHTSA, 1996).
By the late 1950s, prehospital emergency care in the United States was still little more than first aid (IOM, 1993). Around that time, however, advances in medical care began to spur the rapid development of modern EMS. While the first recorded use of mouth-to-mouth ventilation had been in 1732, it was not until 1958 that Dr. Peter Safar demonstrated it to be superior to other modes of manual ventilation. In 1960, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was shown to be efficacious. These two clinical advances led to the realization that rapid response of trained community members to cardiac emergencies could improve outcomes. The introduction of CPR and the development of portable external defibrillators in the 1960s provided the foundation for advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) that fueled much of the development of EMS systems in subsequent years.
In 1965, the President’s Committee for Traffic Safety published the report Health, Medical Care and Transportation of the Injured. The report recommended a national program to reduce highway deaths and injuries. The following year, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and National Research Council (NRC) released Accidental Death and Disability: TheNeglected Disease of Modern Society (NAS/NRC, 1966). That report emphasized that the health care system needed to address injuries, which at the time were the leading cause of death for those aged 1–37. It noted that in most cases, ambulances were inappropriately designed, ill-equipped, and often staffed with inadequately trained personnel. For example, the report