This is a guest post coming to you from a Mr. John Fekety (JdMedic) who took the time to leave a thoughtful comment on the recent post I wrote “Two Cases, One Letter… From One Paramedic’s Struggles, Change Can Come”. He doesn’t have a website for me to link to, but his resume is pretty impressive. I gave him the opportunity to flesh out the thoughts he wrote in the original comment, and I’m turning the post over to him. Good Stuff.
As promised, I’ll put a plug in for his friend’s Safety Training Business: Http://www.Source4Safety.com – Safety & Health Solutions, LLC
Many good comments were made regarding the anonymous letter published here last week. Here are my two cents on the things raised in the letter by Ckemtp and others. First, I confess that I also routinely rant about other healthcare providers not understanding our profession, what we are capable of and what we required to do at times. However, the point of the matter is it is not in their job descriptions to educate themselves about us. We must become much more proactive in educating professionals and the public about whom and what we are. Granted, in a situation like described with the cancer patient with heated emotions, educating someone is not easy – if indeed possible. However, we need to begin to relate one-on-one during down times and talk about what we do and the things we come up against. Will it solve all of the problems? Obviously not, but it may crack open a door for dialogue in the future that can help defuse a tense situation.
Secondly, as both the letter writer and I have learned you have to pick your battles. Would it have done any good to bring up the MRSA issue with the sending hospital? Probably not. They could have simply said, “We told them.” Or more abrasively, “Are you questioning our professional ability to give a simple transfer report?” I think the suggestion of Dave Konig represents the best of both worlds. You let it slide with the sending facility and keep your relations there happy. However, you protect the patients in the other facility and maintain your professionalism by giving the receiving facility a heads up. Before the patient reaches the room you may say something like, “While I was checking the patient’s history during the transport I discovered a history of MRSA and I wanted to make sure you knew.” Everyone wins. Another part of this lesson is the patient does not leave your litter until you are comfortable with releasing the patient (more on this below), or you have no other choice.
Thirdly, we have to educate ourselves about the programs and people we deal with. In that regard, Dave makes a good point about hospice programs as well. Many hospice contracts require a patient to agree not to go to the ED in exchange for the hospice services, including in-patient care when appropriate. Under those circumstances, a patient who goes to the ED is dropped from the program and becomes responsible for all medical bills. Given the cost of just medications, conditions like this alone could drive a patient and family members over the edge. Whether that was the case with the patient in this instance is unknown. One service that I worked for had the director of a hospice service come out to a meeting and give us a presentation (did someone say education?). She explained the various services of hospice, why they may need a patient transported, and what we could do – within our scope of practice – to make things go as easy for the patient and family. It’s about communication folks.
Fourth, like others here I have been in the situation where I needed to be a patient advocate. I was doing an interfacility transport of a trauma patient who still rated pain at 9 out of 10 after meds. I asked the nurse about additional meds and she said the patient had already received everything he/she could recieve. I could have taken a chance, loaded the patient and called for pain management en route but I chose a more direct approach. I tracked down one of the ED docs and asked him to check on the patient with me since I did not feel comfortable accepting the patient in her current condition. (I learned that once the patient is on your litter nobody is willing to help since the person is now your “problem”.) When he saw the girl, he readily agreed she required more meds and not only ordered more immediately but gave me orders for addtional meds en route if needed. No arguments with the nurse, no bad feelings and the patient got what she needed. However, there are those times when feelings be damned and you have to take a stand for your patient.
An example of that situation was when I did an interfacility transport of a patient going for a cardiac cath and other procedures. The patient, in addition to having flunked his recent stress test, had a hisory of a previous MI. When we arrived at the receiving facility nobody knew where he was supposed to go because there was a question about which of two procedures were to be done first. We were finally sent to one location only to find it empty. We were redirected to another location to put the patient in a room until things were sorted out. We got to a hospital room with no monitor and an aid told us to put the patient in the bed. I asked about the monitor, she said there was none, and since he was not going to be there, long he did not need it. I explained that he came from a monitored bed, he required a monitor in the ambulance and he was not leaving my litter until he could be placed on a monitor. She huffed out of the room and came back with a nurse who restated that a monitor was not available and not needed. When I once again explained that the patient was not leaving my litter until a monitor was found. She left in a huff saying she was going to get a nursing supervisor to “… straighten you out.” I thanked her since getting a supervisor was better than us waging war. She came back without a supervisor, but with a monitor and told me the supervisor said I was to leave. With the patient in the bed and on the monitor, I thanked her for getting it and asked her to sign that she received the patient. Not unexpectedly, she refused. However, the patient’s wife who witnessed me ensuring that her husband received the proper care was more than willing to witness my note that the nurse refused to sign.
If we and the rest of the medical community (and/or the public safety community) want to use polite words, EMS is the redheaded stepchild.(Ckemtp here: “ouch”) In not so nice terms, we are the bastards. Either way, we are the new kids on the block and we still have to prove ourselves everyday. It has not been easy nor will it likely get any easier for quite a while, but there are ways we can stop shooting oursevles in the feet. When we hit the street if we keep the following in mind, maybe we can begin to level the playing field.
1. Look professional: If you wear a hat – one that is appropriate – wear it correctly, not to the side or backwards. How you chose to dress/look on your own time is your business. If your dress impacts me and my profession it becomes my business. Although I slack at polishing my boots, my uniforms are always clean and neat (at least at the start of the shift – stuff happens). Take a couple of seconds to tuck shirts in.
2. Act professional: Everyone likes a joke. And, God knows many times with what we see we need humor to get through. However, remember what your parents said about a time and a place for everything. The parking area outside the ED is not the place to have a water fight with syringes. Nor is it appropriate to run up and bang on in-coming units.
3. Talk professionally: You do not need to be a walking dictionary or memorize Grey’s Anatomy. For the most part just dropping the slang and cursing would go a long way. “Thank you.” You’re welcome” Have a nice day.” would not hurt either. And out of respect for Thom Dick, let’s get rid of “No problem.” as a response to a thank you.
4. Respect your patients: If you call your patient, any one of the degrading words used in EMS to refer to, especially nursing home, patients (such as cheese or GOMER), go get a job for FedEx or UPS and deliver packages. You will make more money, not have to put up with mouthy nurses or winey patients. These are people we are supposed to be caring for. Many times, there may be nothing we can do except listen or hold a hand – and many times that is enough.
A final thought comes from a quote supposedly said by Mark Twain. “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Whenever it may be possible for you to be an example of an EMS professonal, act like one rather than acting as our detractors characterize us and provding their proof.
There are many things all of us can point to and complain about EMS and the systems, institutions and people we work with. I have worked in other professions and with all of the problems EMS has, I would not want to work anywhere else, as it sounds like so many other people feel.
Great Post, JDmedic. (Yes, this guy has more education than I ever want to sit through). He’s a lawyer-turned-paramedic and that just brings a smile to my face, I have to tell ya’.
Comments are, as always, very much welcome.