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Top 10 most common EMS statements...and what they really mean

EMS1.com News

February 3, 2010


The Ambulance Driver's Perspective
by Kelly Grayson

Top 10 most common EMS statements...and what they really mean

If EMS calls came with subtitles, chances are they'd read something like these

Updated August 14, 2014

It is a widely accepted truism in EMS that, when dealing with patients, bystanders or supervisors, if it felt good to say something, then it was probably the wrong thing to say.

And I'm here to tell you, early in my EMS career I said a lot of things that felt really good, which probably explains why it took me quite a while to ascend beyond supervisor on the career ladder.

With age and experience, though, I learned not only how to choose my words more carefully, but how to translate the words of other paramedics into what they really mean - just as I've learned how to translate the real meaning of patient statements.

If EMS calls came with subtitles, chances are they'd read something like these:

"So what changed about your condition that led you to call 911?"

Specifically, what made it such an emergency at 3:00 am that you or your homeys couldn't drive you to the Emergency Department? Honestly, if you've been worried about this growth on your behind for a month, why didn't you get it looked at before now? Were you waiting for it to gain sentience or something?

"You're going to feel a little stick."

"Stick" being roughly equivalent to having your scrotum pierced with a rusty railroad spike. But if you promise not to scream too loudly, I'll ask the nurses to pull the sheets out of your behind once we arrive at the hospital.

"I'm just doing my job, Sir. I can't treat what I can't see."

And since you've been so charming, what with the speculation about my ancestry and the threats to kick my butt, I'm going to expose your feet by cutting off your brand-new ostrich skin boots.

"We'll take that long distance transfer, Dispatch."

Because if we milk it enough, we can make that one call last the entire shift. What's the minimum speed on the Interstate again?

"Of course you did the right thing by calling 911!"

Much to my regret, the bleeding from that wart you decided to remove with a pair of nail clippers will not prove fatal. And once I'm back at my station, I'm going to use the bloodstained 4x4 I used on you to fashion a voodoo doll in your likeness. And I'll end every shift by giggling like a fiend as I stab that doll right in its non-emergent, warty little toe.

"We got a save last shift!"

Much like a houseplant, they turn him toward the sun and water him every two hours at the nursing home.

"Your husband may be having a mild heart attack."

The last guy I saw with an EKG like that is now eating his salads from the roots up.

"Hand me an 18."

I'm only inserting a saline lock to keep the ER nurses happy, but I'm embarrassed to even document a 20-gauge.

"[Insert minor complaint here] is nothing to fool with, Ma'am. I've seen it go bad before the victim could make it to the hospital. Better safe than sorry, I always say."

Management has been on our case about excessive refusals, and my performance review is coming up. If I don't lower my refusal rate by at least five percentage points, no merit raise this year.

"Relax, I've done this a thousand times."

On manikins.

Got any paramedic subtitles of your own? Chime in with your comments!

About the author


Kelly Grayson, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, is a critical care paramedic in Louisiana. He has spent the past 18 years as a field paramedic, critical care transport paramedic, field supervisor and educator. He is a former president of the Louisiana EMS Instructor Society and board member of the LA Association of Nationally Registered EMTs.

He is a frequent EMS conference speaker and contributor to various EMS training texts, and is the author of the popular blog A Day In the Life of an Ambulance Driver. The paperback version of Kelly's book is available at booksellers nationwide. You can follow him on Twitter (@AmboDriver) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/theambulancedriverfiles), or email him at kelly.grayson@ems1.com.

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