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Home > EMS Products > Ambulances
November 04, 2010
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Time to slow down?

While the experts debate, those of us in the field in EMS have to shift mindsets when it comes to responses

By Arthur Hsieh

I've talked about the issue of "senseless" speeding by ambulance operators before. Senseless because we simply don't have the data to support the need to shave a couple minutes off the vast majority of response or transport times that would result in better outcomes for patients.

In the past few months since the column, there has been a number of crashes — just take a look at our ambulance news page — with several including fatalities.

We need to have a serious discussion about this situation. There is mandatory change occurring in the air ambulance industry because of the high fatality rate associated with that mode of transport.

Right now there are virtually no guidelines or oversight of ground transport ambulance transports, as pointed out by Dr. Nadine Levick, Chair of the EMS Transport Safety Subcommittee of the National Academies Transportation Research Board.

As outlined in this new article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, she is advocating for better oversight and regulation in this area, to help reduce the rate of injury and death associated with ambulance crashes. 

While the experts debate, those of us in the field have to shift mindsets. Our ambulances are heavier and bigger than ever before. They are harder to control, especially in a true emergency maneuver.

While strides are being made in passenger safety, the vast majority of us who work in the back of the ambulance are often unsecured by ineffective seat belts, with a multitude of heavy, loose pieces of equipment that can fly around and hurt us in a crash.

Most important to recognize is that shorter response times and transport times is probably not helpful to the vast majority of the patients. With public perception (and system design mandates) being as they are, this is going to be a difficult challenge to overcome.

But real change begins from within first. Mandatory driver training is a first step. An analysis of system design might reduce the pressure of showing up "on time." And please, slow down and tell your partner to slow down. Doing so may in fact save your life. That I like.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. In the profession 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 published textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at a rural hospital-based ALS system. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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