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Home > Topics > Safety
January 26, 2012
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

What the public doesn't know about EMS

Most folks are unaware of the safety issues EMS workers are exposed to on a daily basis

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: With an inquest in Canada looking into the death of a man who suffered a heart attack, Art Hsieh looks at the issues behind the story.

This report highlights a standard practice of EMS systems being misunderstood — or underreported — by the press. I can interpret the news report this way:

1) The dispatcher followed triage guidelines and, based on the information provided by the caller, categorized the incident as a lower priority patient.

2) The EMS crew arrived on scene in a timely manner. However, they followed established guidelines in awaiting law enforcement to secure a scene. They didn't "choose" to do so.

3) The fact that the system's EMS providers were on strike at the time of the incident, is not really at issue here.

The story signals the importance of well thought out protocols and operational guidelines, and the need to follow them closely.

The public does not really know the safety issues EMS workers are exposed to on a daily basis. Being physically assaulted, stabbed or shot on the job, while remote, is of serious concern.

This is rarely reported by the press, since it doesn't generate news until someone is seriously injured, dies, or sues.

Stay on top of your organization's operational policies. They will help to keep your legal rear out of a sling.

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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