4 Tips: Add Empathy to EMS Care

Empathy is about trying to understand, as best we can, someone else’s situation or experience. The question is, do we in EMS truly understand the word? Are we empathetical to ourselves and to the people we work with? While some say that empathy comes from proper upbringing, today’s decline in civility means we see less and less of it displayed. A major contributing factor is the “tough” exterior we favor in each other: how often have you heard comments like “come on, just suck it up buttercup,” “you need to be tougher than that to be a medic,” or “we’re EMS, we eat our young.” Why are we like this, and why can’t we reinforce the empathy that naturally resides in all of us? Empathy is a big part of our jobs, and we need to teach it to our students, our employees and each other. People need to feel that it’s OK to be empathetic and that it’s a natural part of the whole EMS picture. One of the best techniques to foster empathy is active listening — not only to our patients but also to staff and co-workers. When you actively listen, you H.E.A.R. …  Halt: Stop whatever (more…)

Your EMS Reputation Depends on Three Cs

Your EMS Reputation Depends on Three Cs—Credentials, Courtesy, Community In EMS, your reputation is critical. Your character moves with you from provider to provider and from squad to squad; EMS is a small world where people know about you before you even step foot in the door. People react to you based on judgments from not only real life, but also your digital life. With Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media networks so prevalent today, your social media profile serves as the basis of your reputation both professionally and privately. Unfortunately, social media blunders abound among EMS providers, affecting their reputations and their future hiring ability. You can find hundreds of examples doing a quick online search; here are just two. Three South Carolina responders fired for making statements like “idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work …” (Kaplan, 2016, para. 3) A Brockton, Mass. dispatcher who said of a pregnant overdose patient, “She needs to be left to rot …” (Shephard, 2018, para. 5) A better way to think of your reputation is the “Three Cs” — Credentials, Courtesy and Community. Credentials may also be called Continuing Education, as it’s vital to...

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Make a Difference: EMS and Human Trafficking

When we think of trafficking, we generally think of drugs or weapons, not human beings. Yet the problem exists in numerous communities where EMS responders deliver care. Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means for an improper purpose.” (End Slavery Now, 2018, para. 1) A more succinct definition comes from Kathryn Brinsfield, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Homeland Security: “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery.” (DHS, 2017, para. 3) Why is this so important in today’s EMS field? We are the first on scene, we are the ones invited inside where others are not and we are the ones who see an injured person’s environment.  Our interactions with others can help us spot some of the tell-tale indicators. Unfortunately, there are many reasons people are trafficked: Domestic Slavery: People are brought into private homes to work as slave labor, with no options to leave. Sex Trafficking: Children, men and women are forced into the commercial sex industry Forced and Bonded Labor: People are forced to work under the threat of violence for no pay — often to repay (more…)

Changing the Face of EMS for the New Century

EMS has always been the forefront of medicine, delivering care to the sick and injured in various roles dating as far back as the Civil War. It has come a long way from the days of horse and buggy. Yet, where are we going now? One look at the trajectory of Nursing indicates where we are headed. When Nursing first started, the profession was comprised of caring women who were viewed and treated as indentured servants, subservient to the male dominated physicians. Nursing evolved when the “servant” became educated. What followed were thousands of women beginning to diagnose, conduct research and improve outcomes in the healthcare field. Soon thereafter, they broke free of the care assistant model they were in. I see EMS following the same path. The ambulance industry started out as transporters, with a curriculum that was adopted and funded by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The industry has roots in DOT, Police Departments, Fire Departments and the military, but are truly physician extenders that should be firmly rooted in Health Departments. EMS is now developing a language, doing research, obtaining national accreditation for our schools, even supporting continuing education with CAPCE. But we need to do more. (more…)

Is Narcan the Answer?

There has been a lot of talk recently in social media and the news about leaving Narcan behind after a reversal of an opioid overdose. A new voluntary program in Pittsburgh, PA allows the state to pay for Narcan atomizers that EMS can leave with friends and family of OD patients. The media buzz revolves around the idea that we are enabling this cycle of addiction; “There is some pushback that maybe you’re enabling the problem a little bit, but at least in the short term, reduce the chances that person is going to die and you create more opportunities to get them into treatment,” said Mark Pinchalk, patient care coordinator for Pittsburgh EMS.” (Media, 2018, para. 3) I agree with Mr. Pinchalk that as an EMS Provider we are not there to judge, we are there to render aid. One of my early instructors said, “Scott, your purpose is to leave the patient better than the way you found them.” I have taken that long ago statement to heart ever since, trying to leave the patient better than the way I found them whether that is medically as in a Diabetic whose blood glucose I raise from 20mg/dl to (more…)

Reaching Millennials Through Virtual Gamification

When I mention EMS Games. What comes to mind? Do you picture yourself in the late 1980s playing ambulance driving games where you scored points by transporting patients to the hospital? Or do you think about games such as Emergency: The Paramedic Simulator, which was very much an animated comic book where you would choose a skill then turn to page 73 to see if it worked? Today I think about millennial paramedic students and how they learn. The digital age has created a learning environment where people feel more comfortable multitasking, are tired of voiced over PowerPoint presentations and reading articles followed by a competency test. How many times have you skipped to the end of a self-directed learning module to take the test knowing you will pass? Did you stop to consider what you actually learned from doing that? Were there tidbits of information in the course that you may have picked up if you had followed along but since you already felt confident you knew the information you skipped to “prove competence or to just get your certification?” The American Psychological Association article references a “study by Dalton State College psychology professor Christy Price, EdD, which suggests (more…)

Time to handle 911 call demands with Paramedics

When discussing this new and growing field of pre-hospital care, there seems to be two unique paths that services are following. The first is the hospital-owned or contracted service, where community providers seek ways to decrease readmission rates for CHF, COPD, Pneumonia, Sepsis, MI and other chronic illnesses. When a patient discharged with one of these targeted conditions is readmitted within a 30 day window, “hospitals face penalties of up to 3 percent of Medicare payments in 2018” (Gluck, 2017, para. 10). That is a lot of money. Consider, “Lee Health, Southwest Florida’s largest hospital operator, which is expected to lose $3.4 million in payments” (Gluck, 2017, para. 2). This model represents the if, or, and type of service, meaning if we can do it for less and there are providers willing to do this type of medicine, then we can save the expensive penalties from CMC. The other model of community paramedicine is 911 abuse reduction. For years EMS has conditioned the public to call 911 for any emergency. But today, what we consider an emergency is far from the public’s perception of an emergency. “EMS has experienced a 37% increase in 911 calls since 2008.” (White, 2016, para. (more…)

Protecting EMS and What That Means

I have been seeing a lot of chatter on social media and reading quite a bit about ambulance services issuing ballistic vests and providers being allowed to arm themselves. Looking at the available data, consider the following: 67% (95% CI = 63.7%–69.5%) of respondents reported that either they or their partner had been cursed at or threatened by a patient; 45% (95% CI = 42.4%–48.3%) had been punched, slapped, or scratched and 41% (95% CI = 37.9%–43.7%) were spat upon; Four percent (95% CI = 2.8%–5.0%) of the respondents reported that they or their partner had even been stabbed or involved in an attempted stabbing; and 4% (95% CI = 2.5%–4.8%) reported being shot or involved in a shooting attempt by a patient.” (Oliver & Levine, 2014, para. 22). When looking at the survey results, specifically the low percentages of violent activities, it would appear that such protections are not needed. However, I cannot support the notion that a provider feels that where they work this protection is essential to them. I think a closer, more current look with a larger sample will create a better perspective. This study is relatively small and would be better served if the questions (more…)