Dooooo Doooooo! Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep - Attention AMBULANCE ONE, Ambulance One. Respond Code 3. 1234 Anystreet lane, 1234 Anystreet lane for the (Insert Age and Gender Here) patient found unresponsive, unknown if breathing.
Imagine you heard that dispatch go out just now. Imagine you’re at home, off duty, and just happen to be listening to your dispatch channel. Perhaps you’re a volunteer, perhaps you have a scanner, but picture yourself hearing that and realizing… “Oh My God… That’s So-and-So’s house! A (blank) aged Male/Female? That’s gotta be So-And-So!!”
As an EMS person who lives in your district you know the people who work on the service. Now you’re sure you know the patient too. It’s someone you care deeply about and it sounds like they may be in mortal danger. As someone “in the know” you know what you’re going to do next, right? You’re going to listen intently to whatever traffic happens to come out next on the radio, aren’t you?
“Come on, Come on, Come on!” you think to yourself as you wait the agonizing seconds for the crew to acknowledge the page and go enroute to the scene. “What’s taking them so long!?” you ask yourself. “Ambulance 1 is enroute to 1234 Anystreet Lane” says the crew of Ambulance One over the radio. You don’t think that they sound excited enough. They must not know that this is So-and-So! To them, this is just a routine response for an unresponsive patient. They’re going to do a routine, every day job and perform their routine, every day care. They don’t have any idea that this patient is special to you and they’re going to give this patient the same care they’d give anyone else.
Now, since you’re sitting at home and unable to respond, you’re going to be glued to that radio, right? You’re going to know from the voice on the radio exactly who it is that will be taking care of “So-and-So”. You’re going to either be relieved or horrified by your knowledge of who’s on that responding ambulance. If you have trust in the medic on the truck, you’ll feel slightly better about So-and-So’s chances of survival. If you don’t have trust in the medics, you’ll probably feel a lot worse… right?
It’s always been a sticky ethical situation for a healthcare provider at any level to work on someone they know well and care deeply about. Try it just once, or more realistically for an EMS provider, have the situation thrust upon you, and you’ll see that “Stuff gets real” really quick. We have a vested interest in the care that our loved ones receive and while some of us may know that it isn’t always best that we personally be the one caring for them, we all understandably want them to receive the best care possible.
Trusting a provider to care for your special “So-and-So” is a big deal. I’m sure we all have secret mental lists of our colleagues whom we’d want caring for our loved ones and also our lists of who we wouldn’t. It is a supreme responsibility to be a healthcare provider in charge of the care of any patient and I believe that EMTs and Paramedics hold that responsibility every bit as much as or more so than any other healthcare provider. It is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly and one that I hope my colleagues do not either. We are the first people that our patients and their families want to see walk through their door when the unthinkable happens. When the situation is critical, and skilled, complex, time-sensitive care makes the difference between life and death, we are the ones out there doing just that. A good paramedic must be knowledgeable, highly skilled, and experienced to provide that level of care. Not just that, they must do it every time they get in their truck; because every patient is somebody’s “So-and-So”.
Speaking of “stuff getting real” I have to ask you: What kind of provider are you?
Are you out there every day earning the trust of your peers?
Do you work hard enough, study hard enough, and train hard enough?
Do you do your absolute best for every patient, every time?
When it does happen (and it will) that you are sent to care for a colleague’s “So-and-So”, are you the kind of provider they will trust?
If you think about these questions, you know the answers already. If you can honestly say that you’re good enough, I salute you. If not, well then we have some work to do, don’t we?
Earn it. Study hard. Know your stuff. Do your best. Every patient. Every time.