By Katy Yoder

Photo credit: Airlink Critical Care Transport

For one local emergency medical services professional, partnering with TRACEs means giving fellow EMS workers insight into how the trauma they face every day may impact them. That deeper understanding is benefiting everyone.

This May, Kristin Lingman, AirLink’s Outreach Manager, traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the annual National EMS Weekend of Honor. The solemn, three-day event was created to remember and honor emergency medical services (EMS) personnel who died in the line of duty and recognize the ultimate sacrifice our nation’s fallen EMS members have made.

In 2018, 26 EMS individuals passed away in the line of service, Lingman said. Seeing the family’s pain, especially the children’s, was hard to witness. Watching the children struggle with the realization that their parent is never coming back was devastating. While traveling back from Washington, D.C., Lingman took some time to reflect on what she’d experienced. Since AirLink became a partner with TRACEs, Lingman’s eyes have been opened to the immense impact trauma can have on children.

“All I could think in the back of my mind was ‘God I wish TRACEs was here,’” Lingman said through exhausted tears. “Our industry and communities can do better for those kids and parents. I worry that not enough of us are doing things to make it easier to heal or make it easier to access the tools to help them along the way. I wish we were further along with our work with TRACEs. We all felt so incredibly inept to help the kids. We could all be better prepared to provide tools to those parents.” 

Lingman is proud to work for a company that sees the importance of The Weekend of Honor. AirLink’s parent company Med-Trans Corporation donated $50,000 to help with transportation costs for the families who are making the trip to honor their loved ones.  AirLink also provided for staff, including Lingman, to attend the weekend and be there to support the families in any way they could. 

Working with the EMS community, Lingman is no stranger to trauma. The crews she supports deal with it every day. Over her years in the field, Lingman has found that many of the ones putting their lives on the line for others often have known significant trauma themselves.

“If you look in their history, most emergency service workers have had a lot of trauma in their childhoods,” Lingman said. “They got into helping others because they’ve been there. They want to pass that along. AirLink works hard to support their staff. TRACEs helped us see the importance of integrating trauma-informed practices. But the reality is we’re still working on doing even better.”

Suicide rates have gone up in the EMS sector, according to Lingman.

“The chaplaincy has come in and is with our group a couple times per week,” Lingman said. “We encourage frank and honest debriefs. It’s hard to unpack all those things. They are exposed to a lot of traumatic events.” 

For Lingman, TRACEs has been one of the first steps to better meet the needs within the industry.

“When our employees are struggling, we pull them off the line and honor what they need to do,” Lingman said. “It’s OK within our group to give people the time they need. Our crews recognize that it’s safer when you step down when you need a break. We honor and respect them for doing that, they’re never penalized for it.”

TRACEs has AirLink staff looking at how resilience is possible and good for everyone.

“We are doing more training around it,” Lingman said. “Our staff asked for it. They recognize when they have something that they need to unpack.” 

Experiencing the benefits of trauma-informed practices, Lingman wants to see more. Lingman feels that, as a larger company, AirLink has a responsibility to support initiatives like TRACEs to make stronger communities. She believes that support will ultimately improve employee health and their ability to work. Lingman also knows adopting trauma-informed practices is not a short-cut solution, but a long-term strategy. 

“Doing this can help our kids and adults be better members of society because they have the ability to identify and understand how to deal with trauma,” Lingman said. “It’s really important for companies to get involved and play a part in making it successful in its many forms.”