The First EMS Trainees Were Vietnam Vets

Until the mid-1960s, most first responders were funeral home workers doing double duty, suited for the job because they were able to transport people in hearses, but usually trained only in basic first aid. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson received an Accidental Death and Disability report that revealed that people who were seriously wounded stood a better chance of survival in a combat zone than they did on the average city street. The report made several recommendations, including standardization of emergency training for policemen, firemen and ambulance attendants that led to the first nationally recognized Emergency Medical Technician (EMS) ambulance. The first EMT curriculum included 400 hours of class, lab and clinical rotations in various hospital settings followed by a 100-hour field internship. The first trainees were predominantly Vietnam War veterans who were trained medics. Paramedic programs today are well structured, supported within their local EMS community, and backed by institutions of higher education.