Dr. Grace Coronel is 27 years old and she is from Guayaquil, Ecuador. She studied at the Medical School for 6 years and completed her internship for a year in several hospitals through rotations following that. “In my country, we are required to work for the government for a year in order to become a registered doctor,” said Coronel. “I took several courses like ACLS and ATLS to learn more about emergency services at the same time I started to work for an ambulance crew, giving primary care at homes called “Medicos en casa”. Also, I had experiences with hospital care, working for SOLCA (a Cancer hospital), and Guayaquil Clinic in the Emergency Room, as well as Intermediate Care.” Grace currently works on a cruise ship called the Silversea Galapagos. She has been the Medical Officer in charge of the health of the guests and crew members for the last 9 months. She has her medical center on board and she has to be there in case of any emergency.
“For my vacations, I decided to come to Virginia Beach to spend time with my boyfriend and his family”, said Coronel. “So I asked him if I could learn anything here about my area of expertise (health wise). He found a friend who could help to find a place for me to gain experience.” For this reason, they contacted VBEMS, where she could participate as an observer on an ambulance. Grace shared her experience as an observer on a VBEMS ambulance with EMT Lynette Dimitry and Paramedic Susan Palmer. “They showed me the station and the ambulance. My first impression was how skilled the team was. I arrived at 5:30 a.m. to get an introduction to the unit and to assist with a unit check-off. Throughout the day, we responded to several calls with different kinds of patients (pediatrics, seniors, psychiatric and cancer patients). We had a great day together! I was able to see the protocols and procedures that have to be followed. They gave me a background about the various training they received. They asked me if I wanted to do a half day or continue with them, so I accepted to stay with them. I really learned a lot from these great ladies and the people behind Virginia Beach EMS! I truly hope I can ride again in the future.”
In comparison with her country, the arrival time to the emergency is controlled, as well at the time to get the patients to the hospital. “I admired the communication between VBEMS and the hospitals. Also, I admired how the EMTs and the Paramedics are able to send the patient’s vital signs and ECG to the hospital so they can advise the correct facilities, required. The United States has a special program to check the medical history of each patient so you can be sure of what medication is taken daily and/or their allergy history. In Ecuador, the medical system is not developed enough to have these types of resources around the country.”
In the end, Grace says she can share her experience with VBEMS in her country, especially since the controlled response times and the emergency services do not work effectively. The ambulance services that she has known do not have enough equipment or trained personnel. In Ecuador, you have to pay for training courses on your own. The ambulance personnel always consists of a driver who only knows how to carry the patient, a nurse, and a doctor. “We do not have special skilled personnel like EMTs or Paramedics. Physicians work for our ambulances and they are not allowed to perform procedures en route because it is not safe enough to keep the patient alive during the transport. Most of the hospitals in Ecuador do not communicate well within the emergency system. They receive patients no matter the condition or if they need special treatment. I would like to improve my training in emergency care. On the cruise ship, I receive numerous rescue drills on different scenarios, while having to train my own medical team. I really appreciate their help and instruction because, for us, the most important thing in health care is to save a life and keep the safety of our patients.” VBEMS would like to thank Dr. Coronel for the work she has done, as well as for taking an interest in our Emergency Medical Services system.