“So, is this your first time in an ambulance?” I ask, cheerily.
“Yea, it is” states a good number of the patients I care for.
“Great! Mine too!” I say, while preparing to jab them with a sharp object in order to start an IV.
I then go on to tell them that “Humor is the best medicine… unfortunately, Medicare/your insurance doesn’t pay to cover any *good* jokes”
And humor *IS* the best medicine. I joke around with dang near every patient, unless it would be really *really* inappropriate to do so. It calms the stress of both patient and providers, can alleviate pain by releasing positive endorphins, and makes the traumatic experience of an emergency less painful for the patients. An ambulance call is always a memorable experience (well, almost always unless the patient has a positive samsonite sign) and jokes help to make the memory more positive for the patient.
“What’s red and smells like paint?” I ask.
“I don’t know” says my patient.
“Uh… Red paint. You’ve gotta be quick in here”
Sometimes the patient knows the joke and answers correctly. To this I counter: “Ok, so what’s BLUE and smells like red paint?”
“Blue paint! Come on.. Paint all smells the same, right?”
Usually this elicits screams of laughter. Sometimes that is… Ok, never.
So today I’m talking to an elderly gentleman with a minor complaint that we’re taking out of one of our local nursing homes. He was in pain, but was in good spirits. He was one of those guys with a gruff exterior but one of those gooey centers that could be considered to be a “heart of gold”. He needed an evaluation and treatment at the ER, so we gently placed him on the cot and began taking him to the ambulance so that I could ask him if this was his first time in an ambulance (it wasn’t) and then jab him with a sharp object (he said it didn’t hurt). As my partner and I are wheeling him down the hall past the nurses’ station, the nurses comment about how I am carrying all of the bags while my female partner isn’t carrying anything.
I said “It’s ok. I was a pack mule in a former life”
And the patient said: “That makes a lot of sense, because you’re a jackass in this one too”
Looks like we’ll be needing a 14 gauge IV cath…