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By Todd Wildermuth
Public Information Officer
City of Roswell
As chief of the Emergency Medical Services Division of the Roswell Fire Department, Eric Mann doesn’t hesitate when describing what it takes to be a good paramedic. A paramedic himself, Mann has been called on to handle medical emergencies of many types involving a wide variety of patients during his 15-plus years with RFD, with close to the last five years spent as EMS Division chief.
“You have to be able to remain calm in any situation, no matter what it is,” he says, beginning to list his top three characteristics of a top-notch paramedic or EMT (emergency medical technician). “You see trauma with pediatric patients, you see death, you see a lot of stuff. You have to be able to remain calm.
“You have to be good at the skills you’re trained in, absolutely.
“You have to have compassion and actually care about the patients you’re treating.
“If you can do those things, you’ll absolutely be a great paramedic. You’ll be a great EMT. You’ll be good.”
Mann is in his current position after climbing the RFD ranks from firefighter and driver to lieutenant and fire investigator. Now, he oversees a division that is involved in most of RFD’s calls. Among all calls RFD responds to, 89.5 percent are EMS calls. Being EMS chief is a perfect fit for Mann, who also teaches EMT courses at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.
“I was lucky enough to be gifted in EMS,” he explains. “It just came really natural to me. So that’s where I tended to go. I liked it.”
He now is in charge of all things EMS at RFD. That includes ensuring equipment is maintained and keeping all personnel – who are required to have a minimum of an EMT-Basic license, but many of which have achieved EMT-Intermediate or paramedic status – up to date on training and certifications.
All RFD paramedics have top-level certifications in various subject areas of EMS care. That meets Mann’s goals of trying to get his personnel “as much training as we can” and also “trying to stay on the cutting edge of EMS.” RFD has earned “special skills applications” that allow its personnel to do things in EMS care of patients that go beyond the usual protocols of care that dictate and limit the actions of most other New Mexico EMS responders.
“Eric does an incredible job as the City of Roswell Fire Department EMS Division chief,” says RFD Chief Devin Graham. “This position requires hard work, attention to detail, and a vision for improving EMS in our community – all traits that Eric possesses. It is a pleasure to work with Eric on a day-to-day basis and I look forward to continuing to advance our collective vision of EMS in Roswell and Chaves County.”
For all the technical aspects that go into training for the job of EMT or paramedic, a big part of being able to do the job well amid very difficult situations is being able to always maintain emotional control. A paramedic or EMT can’t become overcome with emotion when called to something like a serious vehicle crash involving a child who happens to be about the same age as the EMS responder’s own child.
You have to have the ability to separate yourself from that situation, as hard as that sounds to do,” Mann says. “You have to have the ability to realize that this is not your emergency. You’re just there to help. In order to do what’s best for the patient – and that is always our goal – you have to be able to separate (emotional reactions and doing your job).”
That doesn’t mean it is an easy thing to do. Different EMS personnel have their own ways of accomplishing that separation. For Mann, the key is focusing on the task at hand.
“I look at it as a job and I focus on the technical aspects of it, to get me through, to finish what I need to do,” he says. “It’s absolutely necessary, or you’re going to fall apart on these scenes and not do what you’re supposed to do.”
While Mann’s presence is not required on most calls, the EMS chief still finds himself responding to a good number of the calls his personnel go on, particularly calls involving children, vehicle accidents and cardiac arrests. In fact, when it comes to someone having a cardiac arrest, Mann wants to be on scene for each of those if possible.
“I want to make sure every single one of those goes as well as it possibly can,” he says. “In my mind, those are the calls that you can absolutely save somebody. I want to be there to help and I want to be there to make sure that the correct help is being given. That’s the definition of this job in my opinion.”
Dealing directly with patients also remains a priority for Mann, even in his administrative position as EMS chief.
“People around the department would probably tell you that I’m a completely different person with a patient than I am with anybody else,” he says. “To me, it’s easy to establish a connection with somebody who needs you.”
Mann never wants to get too far away from being hands-on in helping provide a solution to someone’s immediate troubles and being part of putting a patient’s mind – and in this business, body as well – at ease.
“That relief you see in their face, that for me is absolutely it,” Mann says about the most rewarding aspect of his work. “Making a difference in people’s lives…that’s what EMS is founded on.”