Goal: To recognize the opportunities that arise in emergency services to provide true care for others, especially when it seems like a waste of your training and expertise to do so.
“You often help your patients the most when you think you’re doing the least.” This advice was given to me as a new medic precepting under the wings of some well- seasoned dinosaurs. Although I believe that the cool EMS, police and fire fighting skills we have are useful at times, this piece of advice holds a special place in my memory.
But It’s Just the Sniffles!
Police, fire or EMS, how many times have you been met at the door by a frantic young mother holding a sniffling, crying infant? I’m sure you can already picture this mother in your mind – feverishly rocking and bouncing the infant in her arms in a vain attempt to calm her down. Eager to explain to how she was sick yesterday – but not really sick – but now she got worse so she gave her Tylenol – but she didn’t get better – and then she threw up – and then the pediatrician didn’t call back – and then she started making this weird gasp – you know… like she couldn’t breath – why was she making that sound? Is she going to be okay?? Oh God, please tell me she’s going to be okay!
(Sigh. Come on lady… she’s crying so she’s obviously fine. Did you seriously call me to check out your kid’s sniffles?)
But I Have All These Cool Toys!
So you take the screaming, sniffling kid, remembering your instructor hammering in the pediatric assessment triangle and immediately decide that the kid is going to be just fine. Yes – another infant shall overcome the dreaded sniffles and live to someday procreate stronger, more sniffle-resistant offspring! Hoorah!
(Hmmmm… Maybe I can get an RMA on this one. Awwww yeah… I’m getting a refusal…)
No such luck on the refusal. This is turning into a taxi transport. Yet another transport in which your skills are going to go unused.
Not so fast though… while you probably aren’t going to get to play with any of the cool toys that come with your job, our job in any emergency services career involves more than just flirting with death and disaster. While today’s paramedic students spend countless hours deciphering those little squiggly lines on ECG paper while intubating manikins upside down in the dark, and many firefighters go to the academy to learn Haz-Mat, CAFS and extrication, and we all learn how to keep ourselves, and our partners safe, most programs don’t instill the culture of compassion that a true lifesaver needs to have.
Lifesaver; I use that particular word purposely. As you participate in this “Pediatric Taxi Transport” you become the temporary lifesaver. Not of the snotty kid, but of the young mother. This mother has come to a point where she feels as though she can no longer control a situation. She reaches out for help, and you arrive at her door.
You already know that this kid is going to be fine. She’ll most likely only be observed in the hospital for a few hours. She probably won’t get any type of medication or actual treatment that’s not readily available at any local drug store, and will be discharged with instructions to follow up with her pediatrician.
Remember though, there is no maximum dose of compassion and caring. Your willingness to take control of this situation, or the woman in the stalled car or the frantic new homeowner with the bloodhound’s nose for smoke that is from the neighbor’s barbeque– at least until they are able to maintain control of the situation – is the best care that can be provided.
The hardest decision you’ll need to make is which route to take back to the department– but you still have the opportunity to be a lifesaver. Your every day no-big-deal call is a scary, upsetting moment for those who need your help, and though you don’t always feel like a lifesaver, you are to those who’ve called. So be proud of yourself, even when you’re thinking, “Pfft, that was no big deal,” because to someone, it was.
Application: Compassion and patience are two of the most critical skills that any emergency service provider can have and they must be purposefully exercised and practiced under difficult conditions just like all the other operational skills that we acquire.