Tracey Barron

Academic Research

By Tracey Barron

It’s almost by triple accident that Lee Van Vleet found research—or the other way around. And during the past five years since getting his master’s in health science, he’s turned into an evidence-based hound for EMS, particularly EMD.

Van Vleet entered a graduate program in 2008 through Western Carolina University (WCU). The degree with an emphasis on emergency medical care was in its first year at the university and required students to make a choice between an education- or research-related project for their thesis. Van Vleet chose the latter and then narrowed the field of concentration.

“There was so little research in EMS relative to other medical science, so that’s the direction I decided to take,” said Van Vleet, District Chief, Wake County EMS, Raleigh, N.C. “EMD is an important component of EMS and one that’s underappreciated.”

The thesis, or rather the previously unknown lure with hands-on research, led to the poster submitted to the IAED-sponsored contest at NAVIGATOR and—to his astonishment—the poster that took top honors.

The poster, “Time to First Compression Using Medical Priority Dispatch System CPR Pre-Arrival Instructions Does Not Vary With Dispatcher Experience,” quantified the relationship between time to first compression and EMD experience across MPDS versions 11.3 and 12.0 for all calls identified as cardiac arrest that did not require mouth-to-mouth ventilation instruction. The study’s title tells the results.

“It’s amazing to me that anyone even looked at my poster, since I don’t fit the image of what I think of a serious researcher,” he said.

Actually, Van Vleet has sound research experience that he’s too modest to concede. A research poster he developed with Michael W. Bachman and Michael W. Hubble, also of Wake County EMS, was accepted for oral presentation at the 2015 National Association for EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) Science Assembly and, four years earlier, a poster by Hubble and Van Vleet was accepted for oral presentation at the 2011 NAEMSP Science Assembly.

Van Vleet’s interest in studies involving cardiac arrest survival directly tie into his work and the county’s EMS reputation.

Wake County EMS is nationally recognized for its cardiac arrest survival rates. Over the past decade, the survival rate from cardiac arrest has increased substantially due to EMS actions such as continued compressions, cooling patients, not moving patients until pulse is restored, and sending specially trained paramedics to the scene of every cardiac arrest patient.

Van Vleet is a field paramedic and proficient in providing the county’s EMS initiatives for cardiac arrest survival; his 9-1-1 EMD experience, however, is somewhat limited. Due to state regulations, he was certified in EMD in 1998 when appointed the EMS training officer for neighboring Chatham County.

“I went in to the EMD course with paramedic attitude,” he said. “Why do I need EMD training? I’m a paramedic. I know what to do. My thinking was turned around. The difference between field and phone is apples to oranges.”

Exposure to the communication center, the MPDS, and the EMD program made Van Vleet one—as he says—of the staunchest advocates of protocols and certification. He also found a niche in the link of EMS response and looks forward to future studies that complement EMD.

“I like research very much,” he said. “We prove things. We do so much based on what works, without the evidence that it does. That’s not science.”

He’s also looking forward to next year’s research poster contest.

“I’m champing at the bit for the release of MPDS Version 13.0 so I can get started on another EMD project related to protocol,” he said.

The abstract of Van Vleet’s research and winning poster will be featured in the September/October 2015 (Volume 3 Issue 2) Annals of Emergency Dispatch & Response (AEDR).