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EMS Education Tips

Everyday EMS
by Greg Friese

Seat Belt Use in the Patient Care Compartment

I am sure your department has a seat belt use policy. Yet, I observe few EMS professionals wearing seat belts in the patient care compartment. I encounter responses that range from indifference to hostility when suggesting we should always wear our seat belts in a moving ambulance. Common complaints are that wearing a seat belt might compromise patient care by not being able to perform tasks like reaching for equipment, using a bag valve mask, talking on the radio, or compressing the patient's chest.

These are my tips for wearing a seat belt in the patient care compartment as much as possible.

1. Start by making a personal commitment to use a seat belt on every transport.

2. Maximize assessment and interventions performed before transport starts based on patient condition and protocol.

3. Organize your workspace so the tools and equipment you will most likely need are within reach during transport.

4. Use a cell phone to call hospital report, if allowed, so you can talk from any seat belted position.

5. For additional supplies needed during the call, I like to keep the first-in bag belted to the seat next to me. I use supplies from there and replenish the bag from the cabinets after the call.

6. If you must leave your seat, try to wait until the vehicle comes to a halt at a stop sign or red light.

Finally, if your service routinely transports pulseless patients, it is time to have a thoughtful conversation with your medical director and service director about the efficacy of manual chest compressions in an ambulance relative to the risk to you and your colleagues.

Share your tips for maximizing seat belt use in the patient care compartment.

About the author

Greg Friese is Editor-in-Chief of He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by e-mailing him at
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