Does How Your Brain Works Affect Your Patient Care?

Hey everyone, before you read the post below, watch this video. This is part of a test:

Now, after you have watched the above video and reacted to it in some way, read the following humorous statement:

“Some helium floats into a bar. The bartender says “We don’t serve noble gasses here!” The helium doesn’t react.”

(Ok, if you’re not a nerd.. The noble gasses (of which helium is one of) are non-reactive. Ha!)

Which one of those two things made you laugh harder, if at all? Did you have a positive or negative reaction to either of them? Both?

The reason I ask this, is because I told my partner that joke about the helium today. His reaction: “Wow… All that knowledge and you still can’t tile your bathroom floor.” He came to EMS after being a contractor and working in the trades. You know, doing stuff that you have to do with your hands. I did too, honestly, since I pretty much grew up on a farm with a father who owned a hardware store. So you’d think I’d be handier than I actually am. I can fix things, sure… but I certainly couldn’t build a house. That’s just not how my brain works.

Years ago, while working in an emergency room I overheard two physicians having a discussion about another ER physician who was very popular with his coworkers and patients. This doctor was friendly, jovial, kind, and nice. I liked him quite a bit and was a little weary of the other two docs talking about him. They talked about how nice this other doctor was to all of his patients and how they wished they could have him follow them around to all of their own patients and be the “nice” doctor who made their patients feel better while they attended simply to the cold, hard realities of their patient’s medical needs. Their solution was that a happy medium could not be reached, and that a healthcare provider was either “too nice and incompetent” or “competent, but a jerk”.

And today, after my coworker brought up the severe need for a new tile floor in my bathroom, I thought back to that conversation. He and I are both paramedics. While I’m more experienced and have been a paramedic for more than a decade longer than he, He and I both take care of the same types of patients with the same types of complaints and make similar results. We follow the same standing medical orders and work under the same medical director in the same ambulances. However, since his brain works so very differently than does mine, how can we possibly achieve the same results?

People choose their physicians based upon their personalities as much as they do anything. They want to develop trust in their doctor, and the interpersonal relationship between doctor and patient on outcomes has been widely speculated upon and researched. I wonder if the same phenomenon exists within EMS. Does the way our personalities, experiences, strengths, weaknesses, and other traits affect our patient outcomes? If my brain is wired so very differently from my partners, how does that affect his patients’ care over my own?

I don’t have the answer to the questions I’ve asked here, but I’ve become pretty curious about this over the last hour or so. To help answer the question of what personality type you think makes the best type of paramedic or EMT, I ask you to write your opinion in the comment section below. I think that we might get some pretty darn interesting answers. 

Be sure to put which humorous thing you most enjoyed above somewhere in the comment.

(Oh, and so two Atoms were walking down the street. One said “Oh no! I’ve lost an electron!” to which the other replies “Are you positive??”)

 (Also, my friend with the Ph D in chemistry said that the helium joke was “A real ARGON-er” – Get it? Ha! Nerd humor is nerdy)

  • Tiffany

    I wasn’t sure what to expect from the video, so when I watched it, I felt more of a shocked “OMG” reaction than humor…and yea, like your partner, I don’t get the “nerdy” jokes…sorry…

    But YES, I DO believe that a persons personality / thinking / strengths – weaknesses affect how we respond / react in patient care. For example, my partner (who, like me, is an EMT-IV), has the “Earn Money Sleeping” attitude about EMS. I feel like I always have to come behind him and check what he’s doing and I usually have to go over his paperwork before we even leave a patient b/c he just seems so absent minded about what we do. He said he came into EMS b/c of his mom (who is an EMT) and for him, it was easier and quicker than going to college (whereas I graduated college with a Bachelors degree before even entering EMS).

    Don’t get me wrong, he knows what I know in terms of being an EMT-IV and how things work, but he definately doesn’t seem to have the “we’re here to save lives” attitude…It’s more like “you woke me up for that?” attitude. It’s definately annoying that we have such different attitudes about what we do and yes, I believe it affects how we treat our patients.


  • Anonymous

    I found the chemistry joke funnier.

    I think that the best care giver depends on the patient (given a certain minimum competency)

    The two people in my service who are, in my opinion, the best paramedics examplify this perfectly. Now, I want to make it clear from the start that they are both very knowledgable (certainly far more so than me), and very caring people, however one of them noticably has exceptional clinical skills (compared to the average paramedic). He is the paramedic that I would want to turn out to me if I ever needed one of my colleagues to look after me. I deal best in cold, hard facts, and don’t (with relatively few exceptions) get overly upset or emotional about anything, but would stand to gain from his clinical knowledge. I’ve yet to come across a subject that he doesn’t know in depth, including many outside of EMS, and if there’s something he doesn’t know, he will find out, so as to improve his practice further.

    The other, whilst clinically competent, really shines when it comes to his interpersonal skills. He can build a rapport with anyone, and do so quickly. I’ve never seen him treat a patient without making them smile and/or laugh. He is the paramedic who I would want to treat my family if they needed someone. I would say that there is no exaggeration to say that his mere presence makes patients feel less ill / less in pain.

    These two are my heroes when it comes to EMS, and I aspire to one day make half as good a paramedic as either of them. As for which is the better paramedic, I’ll leave that to you to decide

  • Unlimitedhours

    I laughed at the video as a visceral reaction, another ‘stupid human trick’ we are so used to seeing on the internet. I laughed at the Helium joke because I just thought it was funny and thoughtful. I will use that joke at work tomorrow, I promise.
    Yes, I think ATTITUDE, and not necessarily Personality greatly affect the treatment our patients recieve. No doubt about it. If we are ‘big picture folks used to looking at the whole, rahter than comply with the protocols, then out patinets benefit.

  • I got the video more then the science joke… I have always been a visual/tactial learner.

    Personalities in EMS conflict all the time, but the attitude is the same. “If you put the patient first you can never go wrong”. (Stole that one) The common goal to help people and get them more help (no matter the level of complaint) keeps us from totally killing each other 🙂


  • Peter Lupkowski

    There are only 10 types of people in the world: Those that understand Binary and those that don’t.

    Yes, it is safe to assume that I liked the He joke more, but an idiot always brings a smile to my face. Some use Google, others Bing. Same with mapping software. So it is in EMS. The end result is the goal and the left or right way we take to get there matters less. Depending on the severity of the call I think that a sprinkling of both sides is always useful.

  • Barbara

    I’m not a science nerd, but a platonist nerd, a rare species indeed! But I like the nerd joke better than the run into the sign joke. Those make my stomach hurt, especially if they look painful and damaging as that one did.

  • Firefighter/Paramedic

    Wow. The nerd humor jokes got a shake of the head. The video got a chuckle.

  • Nerd jokes!

    So, a doughnut walks into a bar. She sits next to a guy who is checking her out. The guy, hoping to start a conversation, says, “Hey baby, what’s your sign?”

    The doughnut looks over at him disdainfully and says, “You idiot, I’m a torus”