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David Grovdahl named national innovator in emergency medical services

April 12, 2013

“It was Divine influence that brought my family here. This community fits us,” said David Grovdahl, director of LeFlore County Emergency Medical Services. “Me and my wife Shannon love our jobs. We are home ... we finally feel like we are where we are meant to be.”
Grovdahl and his wife, along with their two children, Rebecca, 10, and Cody, 18, have called Poteau home for the past four years. Being a paramedic has led Grovdahl and his family down a road of travel as he plied his medical trade. Through 15 years of employment with various agencies and several years of higher education, Grovdahl succeeded in obtaining his dream job as EMS director.
“LeFlore County was my goal job. My core values in what our role in society is, came from my time at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas,” said Grovdahl. “I based my goals on what I wanted to accomplish in my career on the influence of my director there. He helped me get here. He sent me on my way to meeting my goals and it was completely and absolutely because of him that I am here.”
Grovdahl graduated from Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Fla., then relocated to Waco, Texas, where he was admitted to the two-year paramedic program at the McLennan Community College. Soon after completing the program and obtaining his state and national certification, he took his first job in emergency medicine as a 911 ground medic in Arlington, Texas.
“My very first call was a neonatal cardiac arrest. We were taking the baby on the elevator when it happened. The nurse reached over and rubbed the baby’s foot and the baby’s heart started beating again,” said Grovdahl. “I remember thinking of all things I had been taught and all she did was rub the baby’s foot. It was then that I realized I had just finished school but my education had just begun.”
Grovdahl began making his way up the emergency medical ladder of success when he took his first supervisor job as an EMS shift commander at Scott & White Hospital. He worked at the hospital for four years until he moved to Wyoming on his next employment adventure.
Grovdahl and his family moved to Casper, Wyo., after he was offered a job with Wyoming LifeFlight as a helicopter and airplane medic. He was based out of the Wyoming Medical Center and accredits his time in Wyoming for a change in how he approached medical care.
“We were the only flight program in the state. I believe if there was ever a true transition in my career it was during this time,” said Grovdahl. “I learned the first part of patient care is care. At previous jobs you rarely spent more than 30 minutes with a patient then you never saw them again. ...at Wyoming you have longer transport times and often your patients are in the hospital where you work, and so you get to know them. It teaches you compassion and how important first impressions are in building trust with your patient.”
In 2006, Grovdahl left Wyoming LifeFlight and became the paramedic field trainer for a service in Fort Collins, Colo. During his time in Colorado, Grovdahl attended Colorado State University, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science.
“Fort Collins was that time in EMS when it evolved from just a transport to a more involved treatment of emergent patients,” said Grovdahl. “I really clued in on clinical upgrades and technology and what role EMS plays in the medical field.”
Grovdahl was responsible for training new staff, fresh out of school. He became emersed in the changing trends in emergency care and was on the front line of crisis, teaching new hires those trends.
“The time of load and go was over. Now we treat and transport,” said Grovdahl. “EMS has transitions to this new method over the years and it began in Fort Collins for me.”
After completing his bachelor’s degree, Grovdahl continued his education studying for his master’s degree in science and management.
After a short stint at the Bay Area Medical Center in Wisconsin in 2009, Grovdahl was offered the job in LeFlore County and the move was made.
“I had never been to Oklahoma or Poteau, but I had been to an airs how in Fort Smith, Ark.,” said Grovdahl. “We love this community and it is perfect for us.”
In March, Grovdahl’s career hit a high point he has strived for since his early days as a medic. He was recognized nationally, along with nine other medical professionals, for their innovation in the emergency medical field. The awards are given by the Journal of Emergency Medical Servicesand Physio-Control in recognition of EMS professionals who find solutions to challenges within their own EMS service that can serve as motivation for other professionals.
“This is a small community, so we have to be innovative or financially we won’t survive.” said Grovdahl. “Cost’s of treatment are going up and reimbursements are going down. So we have to provide extraordinary care at low costs. That is what I was recognized for by the leaders of my industry.”
Grovdahl received his award in March when he attended the EMS Today Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

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