#AtoZchallenge: History of Paramedicine – U is for Undertakers

Those who know me know that one of the biggest interests is in the area of Fire/EMS (though I am not, myself a Firefighter or an EMT/Paramedic).  I decided this year to do my A-Z Challenge using the theme “History of Paramedicine….

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Undertakers???  Why would I be posting about undertakers in a series about the history of Paramedicine??  Because many of the very first ambulance services were housed out of funeral homes.

AtoZ-UThe whole reason for the coming of ambulance services in the early days was for transportation of sick & injured to the hospital.  In the 1800’s  there was not a lot of need for patients to be taken to a hospital.  Most of what could be done could be done as a house-call just as easily as in the hospital and the equipment available easily fit in a doctor’s “black bag”  A hospital was primarily a place for the dying, the infirm, or the insane.  It was after the Civil War and into World War 1 that this began to change.  As technology and skills increased and reasons for a patient to be in the hospital, so to did the need for a way to transport in a supine position.  It was partly for this reason that the need for ambulance services came about – Something that had already begun in the military setting.

There were a number of reasons for ambulance services being run by funeral homes.  One big reason was the fact that they already owned one of the few modes of transportation that allowed for a supine position of the patient.  Not to mention it was great for business (that of the funeral home).  First of all they were in the know of what was going on in the community – who was sick who was dying, etc.  Also people were much more likely to proudly display the number for the local ambulance service along with other “Emergency Numbers” than they were to display that of the funeral home (which often times would get tossed out).

The arrangement of funeral homes also housing Ambulance Services lasted into about the 1950’s and by the late 1960’s was pretty much a thing of the past.  This was partly due to changes in equipment available to patient care, need for better vehicle design for transporting patients, and the publication of the commonly known “White Papers”.

Now most ambulance services are either privately owned or housed of the Fire Department.

Sources:

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