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Home > Topics > Patient Handling
March 06, 2012
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

When we need to walk away

Regardless of the ability of that person to get under your skin, you have an ethical and professional responsibility to maintain your cool, calm exterior

By Arthur Hsieh

Patients with behavioral emergencies are a classic example of those that can present unique challenges.

As the firefighter in the story can attest, these patients often appear to be "normal," and it's difficult at times to understand whether or not they are experiencing a true medical or psychiatric emergency.

While there may be other issues involved in the back story, several principles do apply here.

1. A patient is a patient, no matter how upsetting that might be. Regardless of the ability of that person to get under your skin, you have an ethical and professional responsibility to maintain your cool, calm exterior.

This includes the ability to walk away if you have to. Consider that your safety valve, and that will add that extra level of protection for you as the professional healthcare provider.

2. Our public safety partners, especially law enforcement, have also the responsibility to maintain the safety of the individuals that are in their custody.

On occasion, there is conflict between the mission of the EMS provider and that of the law enforcement officer.

If there is considerable friction between the two, it's best to call for backup in terms of having additional resources at your side to help resolve the matter.

I hope that this issue gets resolved without too much problem. Sometimes, the patients do get the best of us, and it can prove to be a costly mistake.

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
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