Black history

02 October 2022
Volume 14 · Issue 10

While those reading this may be fortunate to have survived the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now time to stand up and unsocially distance from another longstanding pandemic—racism within the ambulance service.

Black History Month is a great time to celebrate the achievements and contributions black people have provided in progressing society. Within the realm of prehospital emergency care, however, it is difficult to highlight (let alone celebrate) many notable achievements compared with white counterparts, as we need to create black history to begin with. We can, however, take great pride in celebrating the paradigm flip of emergency care, through the efforts of the freedom house project—one of the first known models providing robust continuation of care from the streets to the hospital. Young black men were empowered with the tools, training, and belief in their capability to provide emergency care within their community, through classroom, hospital, and field-based training. Ultimately, the first set of people operating the model of paramedic practice as we know it were black. The opportunity however was birthed through immense struggle. A combination of poverty, structural racism and a police force tasked to care for them, just so happened to be the same institution perpetuating the abuse and discrimination among the black community. Peter Safar—renowned for work regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the spread of its use through layperson rescue—was approached by figureheads within the Pittsburgh community on how they can better care for their citizens. Safar agreed to provide consultancy on the physical infrastructure surrounding mobile emergency medical services. He would agree to help design a motor vehicle capable of transporting critically unwell people to hospital, so long as he was able to train black citizens, deemed as ‘unemployable’ to be the ones to provide the care. Safar approached Nancy Caroline to create a national training framework, piloted by the young black men of Freedom House enterprises, where she spent 2 years also being a physical presence on ambulances with the trainees. From this experience, Caroline was able to create a manual designed for EMTs and paramedics: one we know as Emergency care in the streets. The freedom house enterprise shows us that one of the most renowned pieces of academic assistance that we are accustomed to in UK ambulance service development, was built off the success of black people that were given the opportunity to thrive, when general society afforded them no such chance. It also shows the significant importance of allyship—those in a position of privilege offering support and an opportunity to the minoritised.

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