Like firefighters and police, EMS organizations use custom challenge coins to highlight the life-saving roles of their workers in local communities. While every EMS organization has its own stories and experiences, these design tips from AllAboutCoins can help you design a custom EMS challenge coin that’s not only unique but also captures the unique qualities of EMS workers.

Getting Started With EMS Challenge Coins

In contrast to the gung ho look of military and police challenge coins, most EMS coins have reserved designs focused on the role of EMS workers in preserving lives. However, like every coin design, every organization has its own identity and character that you’re trying capture in an EMS organization’s coin. To get started, you want to find what makes your organization different and distinct whether it simply be its work around a local community or their involvement in a major national response.

Is your coin being awarded in recognition of outstanding service? Is it a unit coin for every EMS worker who took part in a specific operation or disaster response? For example, an EMS coin awarded to a paramedic’s work during hurricane response might list the name of the storm and the city they worked in. Considering why you’re coming up with a design in the first place will help you build a roadmap leading to the final design by setting what principles or achievements your design will highlight.

Once you’ve established a purpose for your coin, it becomes much easier to build a design that reflects your EMS organization and its core identity. Let’s take a look at common design elements and images that resonate on a custom EMS coin.

Adapting EMS Symbols

A good EMS challenge coin expresses the lifesaving role of EMS workers at a glance while also communicating the core identity of an EMS organization. As paramedics, ambulance operators and emergency dispatchers, EMS coin designs often involve symbols and tools of healing.

Some of the most iconic symbols of EMS organizations include:

The Star of Life

Painted onto every ambulance, the blue six-pointed Star of Life is the most iconic symbol of EMS workers not only in the U.S. but internationally as well. In the U.S., only EMS organizations and professions are allowed to use the Star of Life as a symbol making the icon an immediate EMS identifier. Most clients keep the standard light blue you’d find on an ambulance but it’s popular to find ways to customize the Star of Life by overlaying other symbols such as an American flag or a black band in honor of the dead.

The Staff of Asclepius

Borrowed from ancient Greek legend, the serpent-entwined Staff of Asclepius is a long-held symbol of healing often found at the center of the Star of Life and used as an international symbol of healing by organizations like the World Health Organization. Nearly every EMS client we’ve worked with includes the staff as part of their EMS coin design. With that in mind, the quickest way to distinguish your coin is to find new ways to draw the staff through a unique color scheme, custom artwork or a dual-plated effect. It’s popular to put the staff at the center of a coin so drawing or creating a 3D image of the staff can really make the Staff of Asclepius pop as your central focus.

The Caduceus Staff

Look familiar? The Caduceus Staff is one of history’s oldest cases of mistaken identity, with many people mistaking it with the Staff Asclepius. All the same, the twin-serpent staff of Hermes is a core symbol of medicine and many EMS organizations adopt the Caduceus Staff as an icon of their responsibilities alongside the Star of Life. Since EMS workers in the military such as members of the US Army Medical Corps or the 4th Medical Battalion are most likely to use this symbol as an emblem. Because of this, coins with the Caduceus Staff tend to have striking and aggressive designs more commonly associated with law enforcement or the military.

Personalizing Custom EMS Challenge Coins

EMS symbols are great ways to immediately identify your coin you or your group as an EMS organization but its important to find ways to personalize a coin as distinctly yours. Simple additions like adding your organization’s name or slogan are quick ways to identify a coin with your group but scrawling your organization’s name on a coin isn’t much more exciting than a name tag.

Our advice is to look for activities or projects your organization specifically took part in. For example, EMT units and other EMS organizations that took part in recovery efforts after disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the California wildfires often include images or designs inspired by the event such as a stylized hurricane symbol. Incorporating elements that only members of your organization would be familiar with would be another way to give your coin a more personalized flavor. Look around. Are there tools or unique elements that you and your organization use every day that most people wouldn’t recognize? EMTs who often respond to car accidents could find a way to include the jaws of life in their design. A paramedic could use have a photo molded in 3D of one of their actual ambulances. Your options for personalizing an EMS coin are really only limited by what elements are core to your organization.

Still, need help with your EMS challenge coins? Shoot us a message! From military EMS workers to municipal paramedics, we’ve helped clients create high-quality custom coins for over a decade. Trust us to help you build the right coin for your team.