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Home > Topics > EMS Management
January 24, 2012
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Truth and blame: Public perceptions matter in EMS

Our perspective is not always shared by others, with little or no knowledge about we do

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: With a skier death being probed after a Maine widow questioned EMS care, Art Hiseh looks at the issues surrounding stories such as these.

Perception is often the basis for reality. It's what keeps lawyers busy and the public reading newspapers and blogs.

In our business, we know how difficult it can be to accomplish our mission, even under the best of circumstances.

We believe that we are always doing the best we can, with what we've got. Yet our perspective is not always shared by others, with little or no knowledge about we do.

A quick look at the news stories surrounding this tragic event points out how easy it is for the "truth" to be buried under a blizzard of allegations, opinions, and incomplete reporting.

After looking at the different reports, I agree with some of the comments being made by EMS1 readers — there's a lot that is not being reported, and no conclusions can be drawn this early.

If a complaint is actually filed, we might get the chance to see the details to the case. In reading between the lines, I can imagine what was happening in the back of that ambulance as it made its way through poor driving conditions.

There are a couple of lessons to keep in mind as the investigation continues:

1. Documentation continues to be one of the best defensive weapons we have in keeping ourselves safe from legal harm.

If something out of the ordinary happens during a call, no matter how minor, consider a quick note to yourself to capture your thoughts at the time of the event.

Your chances of remembering key details accurately and vividly decrease as time passes. If you have any suspicion that the unusual event may have possible clinical or legal implications, get it documented on your unusual occurrence form before things start to evolve.

2. Public relations is crucial in getting a consistent story out early. While I understand that potential defendants may want to remain silent during a story like this, no news is usually perceived as bad news by the viewing public.

There are ways to be able acknowledge an event and educate the public about all sides of a story without compromising an investigation or position.

About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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