This was one of my first posts. Since I’m attending an EMS conference, I figured it deserved a bump-up too. Good Luck!
Some of you have been telling me: “Chris, you’re a good paramedic. You should be providing tips and tricks for EMS people so that they can use your hard-won wisdom to improve their patient care. Don’t spend your time ranting about things that bother you in the back of the truck and keep making feeble attempts to make people laugh. Write a serious article, darn it!!”
Actually, I’m really the only one that’s been telling me that, since this blog is only read by like, six people including my mother, fiancť, and my catÖ but nonetheless I am going to attempt a serious piece regarding actual patient care issues. As such, I have identified piece of equipment that is carried on my ambulance and is most probably carried on every ambulance in the country. This particular piece of patient care equipment is rarely used, yet critical for patient care when needed. When this piece of equipment is called for, the patient needs it and needs it NOW. Yet, I’m sure that even the most experienced EMTs and Paramedics are struck with horror at the mere thought of its use.
I’m talking here about: The bedpan.
Yes, in my storied career I have been called upon to use a bedpan more often than I would have liked to. The situation is almost always the same, the patient is otherwise stable but the pressures of the bumpy ride on the human bowels are just too much for him or her during the prolonged transport time. Usually in complicated cases like these I prefer to bring along a nurse, since they are eminently more qualified to perform in these critical patient care scenarios. However, as is often the case in EMS, we are called upon to take care of any patient presentation in any patient population and must perform professionally in all situations. I have researched the use of this piece of patient equipment in numerous trade publications and critical care guides and have been struck with the lack of educational materials available for this critical patient care skill.
So, as any EMS writer would do when setting out to write a patient care article, I hit the streets to query other paramedics and EMTs on their secrets for the proper use of the bedpan. I began with the coworkers I have at my two ambulance jobs, one a private, not-for-profit city 911/Specialty Care Transport service and the other a Fire Department based service. Both of them work around 3000 calls per year and run at the ALS level. Here is a sampling of the responses I received:
Question: By a show of hands, how many of you have used a bedpan in the back of an ambulance??
Answer: I raised my hand.
Some of the people there wanted me to clarify the question, they wanted to know if I meant had THEY themselves personally used a bedpan in the back of an ambulance? One guy admitted to using a urinal in the back while transporting a patient. When badgered by the other providers, he clarified by saying that it “was a pretty long trip”. I offered that there have been some situations in my career where I have put the bedpan under a patient who absolutely HAD to go poopie during a trip to the hospital. However, and I just realized that this is the most blessed thing to ever happen to me ever, not one of them has ever been able to “go” with me hovering over them.
Of course, in EMS, I have been covered with every imaginable bodily fluid, including the unholy trinity of urine, vomit, and feces ALL AT THE SAME TIME. And I have plans to erect a statue to the person who came up with the idea of prehospital people administering Zofran (an anti-throw up medication). The other day I spent a few minutes starting a saline lock IV on a lady in her bed inside her apartment just so that I could give her that blessed medication. My fairly new EMT partner wanted to know why I did that, when I usually wait until we’re back in the truck. I let him know that I had been on the foot end of the stair chair going down the stairs before the golden-age of zofran had arrived.
Yes, us “experienced” EMS providers (read: old people who never got real jobs) will tell you that when you can’t let go of the end of the stair chair without letting your patient plummet down a full flight of stairs and the patient chooses THAT EXACT MOMENT to decide that they just *have* to throw up. You well, you just have to close your eyes, close your mouth, lower your face to cover your nostrils, and take it like a true professional. Been there, done that, cleaned the chicken and rice out of my ears with a q-tip. It’s moments like that when you reevaluate your commitment to the profession, and realize that it must be something other than the *interesting* amount of money that they pay you that keeps you coming to work every day. For me, it’s the amount of time that I get to spend typing up articles about bedpans and vomit in my earsÖ at least it is right now. Has anyone else ever thought that they had been ruined by EMS? I mean, I don’t think that I could ever do an office job. Years of EMS work has left me with the remarkable ability to begin to focus on something like a laser beam for 90minutes tops, thenÖ Hey look!! A Bunny!!
Oh yea, bedpans. So you slide them under the patient and umÖ Pray that they’re positioned correctly. Wear correct BSI including a pair of gloves, a mask, goggles, and Vick’s Vapo-Rub under your nostrils. Of course, for us old timers, this is required even when you’re making your partner use the bedpan in the back while you drive (heh) Ever So Carefully to your destination. Tell your partner that they need the experience, tell them how professional they are being and tell them that they’re showing true compassion to the patient. Then go out and buy them an ice cream cone filled with Rocky Road. With any luck, you’ll get to eat that too when they suddenly become less than hungry.
In all seriousness, everyone poops. Never let your patient suffer when you can alleviate their suffering with a simple slide of the bedpan under their derriere. Of course, make sure that they REALLY have to go to lessen your risk of contaminating yourself with some really funky pathogens, and also to avoid ticking off the nurses’ lobby by taking their jobs.
Until next time…