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Everyday EMS
by Greg Friese

Shaping Beliefs about Safety Practices

"What are you missing?" the frustrated FTO asked. It was their third shift together and the new EMT-Basic was still forgetting to put on gloves at the start of each patient encounter.

"Oh yeah, gloves. I thought this patient looked pretty clean," the EMT replied.

While the practice of PPE may have been clearly explained, the EMT did not believe it to be important for every patient, and therefore neglected to adopt it. In both EMT school and the staff training program, veteran professionals review policies, rules, and the basics of being an EMT, such as:

• Always selecting and donning appropriate PPE
• Always wearing seat belts
• Washing your hands before and after every patient contact

A friend recently told me, "One truly adopts a safety practice when he or she does it with no one else watching." Adopting and incorporating a safety practice requires a belief that said practice is important and meaningful. As teachers deliver staff training, it is imperative to include plenty of opportunities for staff to develop a belief system that is congruent with the organization’s safety practices.

To shape a staff member’s belief system:

• Use statistics that demonstrate the consequence of an accident, such as an ambulance collision or rollover.
• Make sure the staff training experience mirrors real work experience in terms of incident response, patient assessment and care, transport priority, and work schedule.
• Use experienced staff testimonials about how proper application of safety practices has been critical to their success.
• Role play and discuss common situations where staff members are challenged to enforce a practice wearing seat belts, not using a cell phone while driving, or properly lifting a patient.

Finally, remember that in times of stress, fatigue, and ambiguity, we tend to make decisions on what we believe to be adequate, not necessarily what we are told. By implementing initial and ongoing staff training, you are sure to effectively shape positive beliefs about safety practices.


About the author

Greg Friese is Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by e-mailing him at greg.friese@ems1.com.

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