In memory of those we lost in 2010

We continue to suffer deaths in the line of duty and without question and without exception, these are tragic events


By Jim Love
EMSafety.net

Like every year in the past 35 years that I have been involved in EMS, this year has been dynamic. National changes have been implemented that reflect the best in CPR. A new emergency vehicle has come in to existence to deal specifically with organ transplants, and solar energy has crept its way in allowing EMS to begin to become green. The stork club is growing strong, but so too is the EMS death toll.

We continue to suffer deaths in the line of duty and without question and without exception, these are tragic events. This too has not changed in 35 years and some will say that it is our destiny; that it is expected in the hazardous world in which we work. Before we etch this in stone and accept this as immutable law, I ask that we truly evaluate this belief for I and many others do not believe that we have to accept so many losses.

In the past I worked with a CEO who had a list of simple rules he used to run our organization, and he taught these to all he encountered. There are two that remain with me to this day and I believe are relevant. His first guiding rule: "Communicate, communicate, communicate." Following this rule, we take every opportunity to talk about safety — safe driving, safe lifting and safe patient movement. We use videos and posters and texts and APPS and of course, the spoken word. We once criticized this same CEO for at the time we had no clinical presence; no direct clinical leadership.

When asked he responded, "I assume everyone knows that clinical issues are important — we are a clinical organization." Here he broke his own rule — he did not communicate, he assumed — the enemy and the true opposite of communication. Safety communication begins at home, parents to kids, at school — teachers to students and at work — managers to employees and peer to peer. Reminding someone to stop or to lift right or to slow down is not offensive — it is simple and can be life saving.

The second rule this CEO had: "Good enough, isn't." To me this means no matter how good we are — we can do better. No matter how safe our ambulances are — we can build them better and safer. No matter how good our driver training is — we can do better. No matter how thorough our policies are —we can enforce them better, teach them better, and COMMUNICATE them better.

I believe that if we communicate, if we believe we can be better and work to achieve a safer culture we can and we will. As a result we need not suffer the loss of our own nearly as often.

As 2010 comes to an end, I bid you happy Holidays; I bid you Peace and I bid you a long and healthy life. And so we never forget I invite you to visit the National EMS Memorial Service.

About the author

Jim Love began his EMS career in 1974. Since that time he has worked providing direct patient care, has been an FTO and has been an EMT instructor. He transitioned to management and has held many positions over the years including operations, later focusing on training, safety and risk management. He was the National Director of Safety and Risk for AMR. He worked extensively on the development of all three Safety Concept Vehicles co-built by AMR and AEV. Jim is currently enjoying consulting on EMS safety. He maintains an EMS Safety site and blog, Emsafety.net, and can be contacted at drjlove007@gmail.com.

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