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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Patient care: Are you sitting comfortably?

Make them feel comfortable and safe while they entrust you with their care

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: With a Tenn. ambulance ride getting a rough rating from a patient's husband, Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh takes a look at the comfort issue in ambulances.  

As the comments being posted indicate, we know that the underlying issue surrounding this situation is the fact this medically fragile patient is being transported on an unyielding backboard that would cause discomfort to a healthy person — no less a patient whose condition predisposes her to significant pain on a normal day.

I'm not suggesting that the crew did anything incorrect — protocols being what they are, and medical establishments being slow to respond to changes in practice — it's not surprising that the patient was immobilized to the board.

It's more that the care we need to provide has to include a good measure of comfort and compassion. Could the board have been padded? Might analgesics be provided? Not all of what we provide as care in the back of the unit is based in hard science and statistics.

I've lamented about one of the disadvantages of converting from an automobile-based ambulance platform to a van or truck was the loss of the ride characteristics for the patient.

Even with air suspensions, today's ambulance vehicles are no match for the Meteors of 50 years ago in terms of patient comfort.

The "Sprinter" chassis has been an improvement in the trend — its longer wheelbase and suspension helps to smooth out life's bumpy rides. Yet it's still a clunky ride.

What about some additional suspension inside the vehicle? A floating platform that adds additional dampening while the vehicle is in motion? How about suspension on the gurney itself?

I could even see some type of device that isolates the patient from the gurney during transport. Food for thought.

In any case, share some of the Valentine's Day love with your patients today and every day — make them feel comfortable and safe while they entrust you with their care.

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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