Scenarios. A lot of EMS, a little Einstein

A while back ago I had a kick where I did a scenario-based EMS ethics piece that took a look at a possible situation that could be faced by some Paramedics and asked readers what they would do in that case.

The response was pretty good. You should add your opinion here.

I use a lot of scenario based training for the EMS people that I teach. I teach a lot. Being the old, grizzled veteran that I am (shameless self plug but looking at the kids these days entering the profession sometimes I feel like shaking my fist at them, hiking my jeans up to my navel, and yelling at them to “Get off my lawn!”) I have the opportunity to mentor a lot of newer providers and precept a fair amount of students. During our slow periods, I find that giving the students an informal scenario helps them to step outside their thought processes and really think about what they would do when faced with a like situation.

I like it so much, that I even do it to myself. I’ve mentioned that I come up with most, if not all of my blogging ideas when doing other, mindless tasks. A great deal of my post ideas come while driving. I allow my mind to wander to imaginary concepts and ideas. Since I’m so immersed in EMS on a daily basis, a lot of those thoughts go right back to EMS, and “what if” scenarios come into my mind. Some of them are about patients that I’ve had, the “what if this had happened” kind of questions. Others are completely random scenarios that I wonder what I would do if I happen to be faced with the situation.

Einstein conducted what he called “Thought Experiments” to assess theories that he could not experiment with in a laboratory. One of the ones that I’m most familiar with is his “Flashlight on a Train” thought experiment. In this well documented case, he hypothesized that the speed of light was a constant and was not affected by outside forces. He imagined himself on a long, open railroad train with himself standing at the caboose, or end car of the train. He imagined shining a powerful flashlight from the rear of the train through the cars to the front engine. Using some logic that I am not familiar with because I’m no Einstein, he was able to theorize that the light from the flashlight would hit the train’s engine at the same time and that the light would travel at the same speed no matter how fast the train, and therefore the light source, was travelling. Unlike a missile fired from a jet plane that’s speed would be affected by the speed of the plane that fired it.

So how do Einstein’s thought experiments connect to EMS?

I equate the personal scenarios that I think of and the scenarios that I use to keep my students thinking outside the box to Einstein’s thought experiments. There are things in EMS that we do not do very often. Skills like synchronized cardioversion, surgical airways, and complicated drug administrations aren’t everyday things. Neither are difficult patient presentation with complex layers of comorbid conditions. These are high-risk, low frequency events that trial lawyers dream about. When you need to perform these tasks or think around a list of contraindications when your patient needs action now, having thought about them prior to having to perform is lifesaving.

One of the things I hear the most from paramedics and EMTs is how they run though a list of possible scenarios, patient presentations, and treatment modalities in their heads when dispatched to what sounds like a particularly nasty call. I do that sometimes too, although less now than I used to. Spending the time thinking about these things when you have the time to really ponder the issues is very beneficial and even fun… if you’re an EMS geek like me.

So next time you and your partner are bored sitting in your parking lot waiting for the next call, toss around a few “way out” scenarios. Your care will benefit from it. You might too.

  • Debmcfr

    Yes Chris, I agree! Especially for continuing ed events for EMS. We write our own scenarios for our simulator and describe it as training for “high intensity, low frequency” type skills. I think that for primary EMS education, sticking to the common scenarios is best…but the complex ones are great for experienced folks…and usually more welcomed! Nice blog today!

  • Debmcfr

    Yes Chris, I agree! Especially for continuing ed events for EMS. We write our own scenarios for our simulator and describe it as training for “high intensity, low frequency” type skills. I think that for primary EMS education, sticking to the common scenarios is best…but the complex ones are great for experienced folks…and usually more welcomed! Nice blog today!

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Chris Kaiser aka "Ckemtp"

I am a paramedic trying to advance the idea that the Emergency Medical Services can be made into the profession that we all want it, need it, and know it deserves to be.

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