High-profile considerations for high-profile patients
You don’t have to roll out a red carpet, but there are a few extra considerations for caring for celebrities, politicians and other high-profile individuals in the public spotlight
I recall one memorable day where I was able to drive an ambulance in a Presidential motorcade. For me, a 20-something year-old paramedic in Wisconsin, this was a pretty big deal (and a cool experience!). Our instructions were quite simple and concise, as our transport routes and hospital destination were already pre-planned by Secret Service officials.
Living in the northern Midwest, it wasn’t common for us to encounter incidents where an ambulance was needed to care for a celebrity (let alone the President) unless you counted a Packer player as a celebrity (which, in Wisconsin, was certainly the case). Nonetheless, caring for and treating a high-profile individual does warrant some added considerations to how we do our jobs, but not necessarily clinically.
Many of us older Millennials and Gen-Xers can remember back to the late-1990s when Princess Diana was chased around by the paparazzi inside of her security-detailed car. While her royal security detail was likely higher than what many other celebrities have employed, it’s not unreasonable to experience armed guards surrounding different high-profile individuals within today’s celebrity environment.
I could only imagine that you – as a uniformed EMS provider – would be welcomed into the environment by such individuals, but it’s important to keep in mind the level of security some celebrities take in order to protect themselves while in public. Such individuals may request to ride with their client (celebrity) to the hospital to maintain that continuum of security. Others may follow you along the transport in order to ward off any followers. Once at the hospital, keep in mind that these bodyguards and security details may want to follow you into the emergency department. While you may not see any issue with this practice, the hospital may envision otherwise. Properly informing receiving facilities of such considerations is, therefore, something that we need to relay.
Whether it’s the presence of a security detail, or the heads-up that added personal security (or even hospital lockdown) may be in order, it’s important to relay this information to your receiving facility early in the game, not just once you arrive at their doors.
Take, for instance, another type of high-profile individual: a potential criminal. It’s one thing to have an armed jailer accompanying a prisoner coming from a local penitentiary, but it’s entirely another situation transporting an individual who is accused of shooting an individual – or a police officer. Having worked within a hospital setting for a number of years, I’ll guarantee that the ED staff is going to want to both increase their interior security or law enforcement presence, as well as lock down either portions of, or entire buildings, of the hospital campus when such individuals make way to their location, especially right after a violent event has occurred. Relaying important information like this is crucial toward ensuring the safety of others, maintaining the security of your patient and the hospital staff, and appropriately preparing your receiving facility for any related challenges respective to the details behind your transport.
If you ever get to provide care to Brad Pitt, don’t forget to add the William to his first name on your patient care report (William Bradley Pitt). Or, exchange the Tina with Elizabeth for Tina Fey, or the Chevy for Cornelius with Chevy Chase. How about these names: Mark Sinclair, Caryn Johnson, Eric Bishop and Peter Hernandez? Well, they’re Vin Diesel, Whoopie Goldberg, Jamie Foxx and Bruno Mars, respectively.
It's a good habit to ask your patient what their legal name is, and then what they prefer to be called. This is not only appropriate in the context of celebrities and high-profile individuals, but also in the context of every call. I prefer Tim, but my legal name is Timothy. Others may also have differences between what their legal name is and what they prefer to be called – or identified as (in terms of gender). Remember that you’re completing a medicolegal document, and while not every PCR hits the courtroom, every PCR does cycle through patient care records, health information exchange platforms, billing offices, etc., and properly aligning the patient’s name with their social security number can make the difference between properly getting paid for your transport and sticking your patient with a lofty bill.
Who’s authorized to obtain a copy of your report? What’s your agency’s policy for records requests? How about your social media, patient privacy or photography/video policies respective to sharing (posting, discussing, etc.) call information after the fact – even inside the confines of your agency’s walls? Just because the media might catch wind that your ambulance transported an individual, doesn’t mean that you’re free to talk about any of the details with them freely.
Press may gather around your doors, cameras may place your agency in the spotlight, and your need for a public information officer (PIO) may be well overdue in a situation like this. Establishing a media area and being cordial is important, but so is being respectful and compliant with the law. Overall, your responsibility is to maintain an appropriate level of privacy surrounding your patient. This means not posting original pictures surrounding the incident and, instead, addressing what has been reported by others’ existing photos (likely with the advice/consent of legal counsel, first). While being able to provide high-quality, top notch, superb medical care to any celebrity (or individual, for that matter) may garner some positive publicity in your agency’s direction, it’s certainly not your place to actively seek it.
Whether you’re in the starlight of Los Angeles, amidst the skyline of downtown Manhattan, along the sunny beach shores of Miami, or in the heart of Idaho (yes, there are celebrities in Idaho!), handling any high-profile patient – whether a national MVP or a local celebrity – comes with a few extra considerations. We all strive for quality clinical care with every patient that we encounter, but we can’t forget the importance of quality patient privacy both during and after the call, too.