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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Battling the Opioid Crisis as Employers

As ambulance providers we are acutely aware of the opioid crisis in the United States. As providers of emergency medical care, our EMS agencies have been responding to, and providing life–saving treatment to opioid users. In addition to fighting this crisis in the field, we can also combat opioid use in another way. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) published an article this week, Surgeon General Calls On Employers to Combat Opioid Epidemic, regarding the role that employers can take in helping to fight the opioid epidemic.  The U.S. Surgeon General is urging employers to utilize the information available to them from employer sponsored health plans to restrict access to certain medications associated with the opioid crisis. In addition, he urged employers to utilize employer sponsored health plan claims data to gain insight to the de–identified beneficiary use of opioid medications. Employers with self–funded or captive insurance plans have greater access to claims information and can focus efforts more meaningfully. Lastly, the Surgeon General encouraged employers to ensure that employees have access to mental health and addiction medicine treatment benefits and suggested health plans that utilize Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) to limit opioid prescriptions in an effort to better align...

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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…)

Fentanyl Increasingly Dangerous to First Responders

The explosion of the opioid epidemic that is responsible for thousands of overdoses and deaths is a consistent problem that EMS and law enforcement encounter on an almost daily basis. Usually, the victims of these powerful drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, are opioid users, who EMS personnel and law enforcement are regularly called to assist. However, first responders are also being warned about the increased risks they face of being exposed to these deadly drugs, specifically fentanyl—a popular synthetic opioid that is 40 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. To respond to these dangers, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released a field guide called “Fentanyl: A Brief Guide for First Responders” for EMS and police who find themselves responding to opioid-related calls. “We need everybody in the United States to understand how dangerous this is,” Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg warned. “Exposure to an amount equivalent to a few grains of sand can kill you.” The warnings have become more urgent in recent months due to numerous cases of accidental overdoses and exposures involving EMS and police. In May, Chris Green, a police officer with the East Liverpool Police Department, was accidentally exposed to fentanyl during a routine traffic stop after he inadvertently ingested the drug through his skin. Green needed four shots (more…)

NHTSA and NASEMSO Host Panel on EMS Practices

The National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) hosted a series of meetings for subject matter experts to discuss revisions to the National EMS Scope of Practice model. The experts reviewed the model’s practices, examined education and training procedures, and discussed what certification level, if any, is needed for specific treatments that are now widely-used among EMS professionals. The panel focused on five specific procedures that are commonly practiced: hemorrhage control, Naloxone use, CPAP use, therapeutic hypothermia in cardiac arrest, and pharmacological pain management. Over the next several months, the panel will continue to examine information and recommend changes to the Scope of Practice model, with final recommendations tentatively set to be submitted in August 2018. For more information, please visit NASEMSO’s website.