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A Conversation With Avery County EMS Director Mike Edmisten

By Tim Gardner

Mike Edmisten took over as the Director of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in February 2019 in his native Avery County. He replaced retired, former director Jerry Turbyfill. Edmisten came to Avery in May of 2018 from his post with Watauga County Emergency Services. He transitioned from a part-time to a full-time employee before becoming a supervisor, and eventually to the director of Avery’s department. He is an eleven-year veteran of the EMS profession.

Avery Emergency Medical Services (EMS) began operations in the fall of 1994 and proudly serves nearly 18,000 residents of the county and its visitors. The Avery EMS currently operates at the Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic level with Edmisten supervising almost three dozen full-time and part-time employees. Edmisten and his staff are highly-trained and known for their zenith expertise in their chosen profession.

Avery EMS is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with at least two crews and a field supervisor. Monday through Friday it operates and schedules a day staff unit from part-time employees in addition to the full-time crews. The day crew is staffed from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and responds from the main EMS station, located at 456 A Street in Newland. One 24-hour crew is assigned to the Newland Base, one is assigned to the Banner Elk Base located on Beech Haven Road at the bottom of Beech Mountain Parkway, and another is assigned to the Quick Response Vehicle, housed at 7998 South US Highway 19-E in the Green Valley Community. www.therockc4yd.org/123movies-hd-spider-man-far-from-home-2019-full-watch-online-free-hd

Edmisten addresses a variety of topics with this reporter including what he lists as the intangible rewards of his job and details about the operational procedures of Avery’s EMS.

High Country Press (HCP): To start off, for those who may not know you and for anyone who may want to learn more about you, what is your personal background?

Edmisten: I was raised in the Old Beech Mountain Community of Avery County. I have a wife of 32 years and we have two daughters and a grandson.

HCP: What are your job responsibilities?

Edmisten: Heading day-to-day operations such of the EMS Department including keeping records, hiring, filling other related general office duties and supervising the entire EMS staff from Paramedics to Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) to First or Medical Responders and to support staff. I also make sure the EMS staff members have all they need such as stock and supplies. I check out prices on such so our EMS will get the best deals to save money for our county’s taxpayers.

HCP: How many calls does Avery EMS average per month?

Edmisten: Approximately 300-plus. Our EMS has had an increase in call volume this year.

HCP: What are the most rewarding aspects of your work—both professionally and personally?

Edmisten: Mainly the satisfaction of doing whatever you can to help those in medical need and just being there for them—to talk to them, hold their hand or whatever else they need—besides giving them medical treatment.

HCP: What is the general procedure Avery EMS follows on a call?

Edmisten: Generally, the communications department dispatches us on a call and advises the nature of it. We run that call according to its nature, whether an emergency, routine transport or whatever. Sometimes the staff working the call requests additional help such as more EMS vehicles and staff, air ambulances and the like. Also, I go out on some calls too. After each call, the EMS attendants restock the EMS vehicles with medical supplies. The attendants also have to complete call reports for our records and to submit to the State Emergency Services. Then the EMS staff involved in that call gets ready for the next call.

HCP: On a level advancement scale, does a Paramedic have to first be an EMT and does an EMT (Basic) first have to be a First or Medical Responder?

Edmisten: Yes, you start as an EMT Basic. Then I recommend doing the EMT Advanced before starting a Paramedic course.  Hands on experience is so valuable in our field.

HCP: What are the mandated training, procedures and requirements for someone to work for the Avery County EMS?

Edmisten: Each Paramedic, EMT and Medical Responder has to have so many training hours per year—active training in their work and outside our agency as well. Each of us has to be re-certified every four years by the State of North Carolina.

HCP: What would you like to say about your EMS staff members and their professional contributions to the county?

Edmisten: I have as good of a staff in terms of dedication, skills and a love and passion for their jobs and for the county they work for as any EMS staff around the world. I could not have a better staff.

HCP: During your tenure as EMS Director, you have stressed community involvement and other objectives such as getting the Green Valley EMS Unit in the southern part of the county staffed with a full crew and an ambulance full-time. How do those and your other goals currently stand?

Edmisten: The Green Valley Station is currently staffed with a Quick Response Vehicle 24 hours a day; 7 days a week. In July, it will change to a full crew 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m very proud of this achievement and it will be a tremendous asset for the residents and visitors in, and to, that part of the county. It’s a continuous goal of mine to have community involvement and help with the EMS. Another happening I’m proud of is that our medics have started a program called “Love In Action,” which provides hygiene products to the elderly residents of our county. I deeply appreciate the Avery County Commissioners, our County Manager and other county officials, as well as our EMS friends, colleagues and the county’s residents for all their support. Their involvement helps my staff and I perform our jobs better.

HCP: Do you have additional remarks you would like to make?

Edmisten: For all emergencies, anyone should dial 911 and help will be dispatched and en route quickly. For any general inquiries, the Avery EMS main office phone number is (828) 733-8286.