Look at the pictures below and see if you can identify the three occupations represented by the people in the pictures.
What are their jobs?
What are their areas of expertise?
What would you expect them to be responsible for?
Yep, pretty much everyone reading this and almost every lay person you can think of should probably be able to answer the above questions. The Police Car Driver chases bad guys; The Fire Truck Driver squirts water at things; and the Paramedic takes care of people who are sick and hurt, right? Sure, their jobs sometimes overlap and so does some of their training, but the jobs and the requisite education and responsibilities are different and separate for a reason. The different roles up there are different, specialized, and require expertise in order to be effectively performedÖ right?
And before you think that Iím opening the Fire Based EMS can of worms, I want to direct you to this news story I just read on EMS1.com – Kentucky EMTs not called for 5 hours until coroner ruled woman was alive. Go read this and then come back please. It got me all riled up and Iím sure it will you as well.
The moral of the story, is that police officers were called for a dead body found in some bushes some where. They started doing their cop stuff and didnít call EMS to evaluate the body because their cop training told them that the woman was obviously dead. Unfortunately for all involved, when the coroner arrived he told them that their police-issued medical training wasnít adequate and that the woman was indeed alive.
And yes, I am 100% sure that nobody intended for that to be the tragic result.. people make mistakes, I know… but:
How many times have you been called out in your ambulance to a potential medical emergency and then cancelled while en route? Have you ever wondered who is cancelling you and for what reason? When we arrive on scene, we evaluate the patient and determine their need for transport. We have extensive training to help us do this and we function within a complex set of laws and regulations to help ensure that bad outcomes like this happen as infrequently as possible. Unfortunately, however, things like this do happen, even to experienced paramedics. How many times have you heard news stories about paramedics calling someone dead only to have them be found alive later on? How many times have you heard about occult neck fractures and other severe injuries being found later even after a patient was evaluated by a physician? It happens, folksÖ and it happens to us medical people too. Even with the training, knowledge, skills, and experience we have that is specifically geared to emergency medical care that is again enhanced by the fancy tools that we carry with us, we sometimes still make mistakesÖ
So why in the heck would a police officer, who as stated above chases bad guys and does other kinds of ďcop stuffĒ, want to make the decision that someone was dead or not? It simply doesnít make any sense to me. I have always been leery of having police officers call us off of medical scenes. Even when I know the officer and trust his or her judgment, I know that my medical training and tools are superior to theirs. Thatís the way the system is designed, we do medical stuff and they do cop stuff.
I think that thereís a pervasive trend out there that causes dispatchers to send police units first to things like auto accidents and possible crimes in progress and then potentially forget to send EMS. Most of the time, itís perfectly ok and turns out just fine. Other times, incidents like the above happen. How many times, also, has a police officer determined an auto accident to not require medical response and an occult injury been found later? I donít know and havenít seen any statisticsÖ but Iíll bet it happens a lot more than is ever reported.
My advice? I promise to let the cops to their cop stuff. They just need to always remember to call me out to do my stuff. I donít mind doing the report if Iím not needed or I get a refusal, I just donít want anyone to suffer needlessly.
Be careful out there.
Want more of my thoughts on Fire Based EMS? See: ďFiddling While Rome BurnsÖ The ambulance ďindustryĒ