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The Ambulance Driver's Perspective
by Kelly Grayson

Top 10 ways to celebrate the last EMS Week ever

People engage in risky behavior when they believe world is ending, such as telling their supervisors what they really think of them

By Kelly Grayson

The Mayan long-count calendar ends December 21, 2012. To many, including scholars of Mayan civilization, the universal reaction is, "So what?" Heck, the Mayan civilization itself ended more than 700 years ago. Maybe they weren't any better at making calendars than they were at whipping the Conquistadors.

Still, a great many others believe that the world will undergo a drastic change late this year, either through a great spiritual transformation or an apocalyptic cataclysm. And if you don't have a plan in place, you're either going to die when the comet hits or be one of the unlucky survivors left eating feral housecats and picking through the rubble.

People engage in all sorts of risky behavior when they believe the end is near. They go skydiving. They go Rocky Mountain climbing. They go 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu.

They tell their supervisors what they really think of them.

So it got me to thinking: If we knew this were the last EMS Week ever, how would we promote EMS if political correctness and long-term consequences weren't a concern? Here are my top 10 suggestions. Chime in with your own in the comments, but adopt them at your own risk… just in case the Mayans were wrong.

 Hold a mass oxygen therapy seminar for nursing home nurses. It works just like a mass CPR training event but is much simpler. Divide your nurses into teams of two, and issue each team a soft, fluffy pillow. Have team members take turns holding the pillow over their partners' faces while paramedics with megaphones roam the crowd, barking, "This is what it feels like to your hypoxic patients when you administer oxygen via face mask at two liters per minute!"

Sponsor an EMS cultural exchange program between your communications center and the local cable company. Think of the possibilities here: Not only could cable subscribers get an installer dispatched right now and have EMS to thank for it, but certain 911 callers could be told, "You have an infected toenail? And it's been bothering you for a month? We'll have the paramedics right out to you, ma'am… a week from Tuesday between the hours of 11:00 am and 6:00 pm."

Sponsor free health screenings for all your system abusers. Check their blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol. Set up referrals for substance abuse, psychiatric counseling and homeless shelters. And most important, issue cards that contain all that information... and are also fitted with RFID tags that broadcast their location at all times. "Dispatch to Rescue 7, we have a man down call at the corner of Park and 7th Avenue, with multiple callers reporting. Also, be advised that Benny's chip has been broadcasting from that location for the past 15 minutes, and we tracked him from the liquor store on Park and 9th."

 Partner with Home Depot and your local homeowners associations in sponsoring a "Find Your House at Night" seminar. Put all attendees in a darkened room. Then, without warning, play a recording of an ambulance siren at ear-splitting volume, and disorient them with the blinding glare of a million-candlepower spotlight. Then, turn on the lights and thank them all for coming. Tell them you'll be taking your show on the road to each of their neighborhoods in the coming months… unless they'd like to use the discount coupons so generously provided by their sponsors to purchase reflective numbers for their houses and curbs.

Partner with a NASCAR team to promote your new "pit crew CPR" protocols. Get the pit crew to show you how to lift an obese patient onto a spine board with a floor jack and fit an EZ-IO adapter onto an air wrench. Solicit sponsorship from equipment and supply vendors, and charge laypeople for "pit passes" to watch you practice megacode scenarios at your next ACLS class. Fastest megacode with the least amount of hands-off time wins the 2012 Physio Control Resuscitation Cup.

 Hold a bystander training seminar. We all know that bystanders can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on how helpful they are. Well, here's our chance to train them up the right way. Suggested topics:

  • Status Dramaticus: We Can Tell Your Loved One Is Faking a Seizure, and Now You Can, Too!
  • Time Compression and 911: No, You Didn't Call 20 Minutes Ago
  • Extrication 101: If You're Going to Pull the Victim from the Car before We Arrive, at Least Bring Him to the Side of the Road so We Don't Get Our Boots Muddy
  • Cold Water and Junkies: It Just Results in Hypothermic Junkies
  • The Paramedic Mosey: Waving Frantically and Shouting "Hurry Up!" Just Makes Us Walk Slower

Hold a cookout for staff from the local emergency departments. Serve and seat your favorite triage nurses immediately. For your, umm… "less-favored" triage nurses, tell them you're too busy to seat them right away and to just find an empty spot along the wall until you can get to them. When they point out that there are plenty of empty tables in plain sight, pretend you didn't hear them, or haughtily inform them that those tables are reserved for trauma nurses. Or telemetry nurses. Or obstetrical nurses. Any excuse will do.

"Bring Your Medical Director to Work" Day. I know many of us have never met that vague and mysterious figure who writes those absurdly restrictive protocols. Here's your chance to get to know him or her and show off your capabilities. So bring your medical director down to the station. Give a tour of the communications center. Invite him or her for a meal with the crews. Then go for a ride in one of the rigs… with your medical director strapped to a spine board and driving Code 3 down the roughest streets in your district. And if he or she complains that it's too painful, say that you're only allowed to give him 2 mg of morphine every 15 minutes, and even then only after obtaining permission from medical control at the receiving hospital. After all, it's protocol.

Goodbye, lights and sirens; hello, water-cooled machine guns and snowplow bumpers! Sure, it's a little harsh, but think of the educational and deterrent potential! When you get that guy in the Prius in front of you, pressing a cell phone to his ear and staring at you in the rearview mirror like a duck in thunder, just put a short burst into his gas tank and push him off the road. After driving past a few smoking hulks in the ditch, other drivers will learn to slow down and pull to the right. It'll be smooth sailing for every ambulance on the road right up until December 21, baby! And the best part is the apocalypse will probably happen before any of the lawsuits ever get to court!

Hold a picnic for your supervisors… in the parking lot of the local 7-11. Feed them bitter gas station coffee and frozen burritos, and right before they start to eat, announce that the picnic has been moved to the parking lot of another 7-11 ten blocks away. Do this every time they start to take a bite, and be sure to have 7-11 lock all the bathrooms. When they complain, explain that you're only trying to run the most efficient picnic possible, and remind them that plenty of other people want their jobs.

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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