A fire breaks out in the national forest. First responders arrive to put it out and provide medical care to anyone injured by the smoke and flames. A multi-car pile-up shuts down the main highway. First responders arrive to provide medical care to the injured and direct traffic around the accident so that no other vehicles smash into those already blocking the road. You are sitting at home and have chest pain. You call 911. First responders arrive at your home to provide emergency treatment and transport you to the hospital if necessary.
We may think we know what it means to be a “first responder.” But do we really know who these people are? What qualifies someone to be recognized as a first responder officially. One big question is, are registered nurses considered first responders?
Who Qualifies as a First Responder?
ID.me, an organization that verifies first responders for federal, state, and local organizations, defines a first responder as “an active or retired employee of an emergency service who is likely to be among the first people to physically arrive at the scene of an emergency.” (“Am I eligible to verify as a First Responder?”, 2021)
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has a similar definition: “a person (such as a police officer or an EMT) who is among those responsible for going immediately to the scene of an accident or emergency to provide assistance.”(“Definition of FIRST RESPONDER” 2021).
ID.me lists occupations that qualify as first responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMT), and dispatchers. A flight nurse who is an EMT also qualifies as a first responder. Otherwise, the simple occupational title of “registered nurse” is not recognized as a first responder.
Are ER or Trauma Nurses First Responders?
It may seem like registered nurses working in an Emergency Room (ER), or trauma department would be considered first responders, but generally, they are not. These nurses provide care in the hospital setting, but since they are not the first to arrive at an emergency that arises outside the hospital, they are not considered first responders.
Additionally, at the hospital, doctors are the ones who diagnose and direct treatment. Since this occurs within the hospital setting, neither ER doctors nor ER nurses are considered first responders.
Triage nurses in an ER are generally the first medical professional to see a patient who visits an emergency room and assesses the medical needs of the many people who arrive every day for treatment. While they essentially sort patients into a hierarchy of which patients need immediate care, they do not treat the patients and see patients inside the hospital setting, so they are not first responders.
Registered Nurses May be First Responders During a Mass Casualty Incident
A government publication states that registered nurses may be called on to be first responders during a mass casualty incident (MCI). It defines that as “a situation in which the need for medical care and resources, including personnel, exceeds that which is available.”
There are different levels of mass casualties depending on the number of injured persons.
The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami were both MCIs. The 2001 collapse of the twin towers in New York City caused by terrorists flying planes into the buildings was an MCI, as are mass school shootings. WHO reports that more than 100,000 people are injured in MCIs around the globe every year, and millions more are injured or disabled.
In April 2020, the World Journal of Emergency Surgery called the COVID-19 Pandemic an MCI of the “highest nature” and noted that governments worldwide were unprepared to face it. ER physicians have called the pandemic an MCI since the healthcare system is “overwhelmed by the number and severity of the casualties.” Others have referred to the pandemic as a “slow-moving tidal wave.”
Despite the pandemic being considered an MCI, it appears that registered nurses are, in most cases, regarded as front-line health care workers and not first responders. This again seems to be based on the care that nurses provide is within a hospital setting.
First Responder and Healthcare Worker Discounts
Note: Discounts mentioned in this article might change or phase out altogether over time. Of course, we try to keep this section updated as much as possible.
Money Crashers reports that many businesses now offer discounts to first responders, which generally includes:
- Police officers.
- Emergency medical personnel, such as EMTs and paramedics.
- Members of rescue squads.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have extended discounts to:
- All hospital staff members, which includes registered nurses.
- All first responders and healthcare workers.
Some even offer discounts to families of first responders and healthcare workers. Almost all those who offer discounts require the person asking for it to register with an identity-verification platform.
Dealhack provides the Dealhack Nurse Discount Guide. It lists 14 categories of discounts available to nurses ranging from deals on uniforms to automobiles. Nurses can save money at restaurants, amusement parks, and more. Almost all businesses require an identity card from an identity verification platform. Dealhack updates its guide every three months.
Some specific places for first responders and nurses to get discounts include the following.
Walmart: The store allows first responders to shop at the same early hours as it provides for senior citizens and shoppers who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
T-Mobile: Offers discounts to currently employed first responders and their family members if the first responder has a verified ID. Hospital employees, including nurses, are not eligible.
AT&T: Offers discounts on some plans for nurses and other healthcare workers who can provide proof of eligibility. To be eligible for discounts, if nurses do not have a verified ID, they may show their employment ID, state license, or their most recent pay stub they received in the previous 30 days.
When checking the various lists of discount providers, registered nurses must be careful to note that they do not qualify if the discount says it is only for first responders. They should double-check to see if, like Verizon, another discount plan is targeted for registered nurses.