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Inside EMS Podcast: Are mistakes inevitable in EMS?

Guests Greg Friese and Steve Whitehead debate whether field mistakes are something EMS needs to prepare for, or if providers should be able to avoid those mistakes altogether


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In this week’s Inside EMS podcast, hosts Chris Cebollero and Kelly Grayson bring on two guests, EMS1 Editor in Chief Greg Friese and EMS1 Columnist Steve Whitehead, to debate whether field mistakes are inevitable in EMS. They argue whether field mistakes are something EMS needs to prepare for, or if EMS should be able to avoid those mistakes altogether.

Friese argues that if going into a call with the attitude that mistakes are inevitable, it essentially becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Once we have a mindset of someone’s bound to get hurt, why don’t we just pick the person that’s going to get hurt?,” he said.

Instead, let’s focus on not having an error or mistake in the first place.

When we start looking at prevention at each particular phase, we can go error free.

Whitehead disagreed, saying emergency service is a dynamic job packed with variables, and there’s no way you can presume it can be done error free.

“I think it’s time we take medical errors and pull them out of the closet,” Whitehead said. “They’re not something to be hidden; they’re not something to be ashamed of.”

When errors do happen, it’s valuable because humans learn from their mistakes.

Friese argued that it can lead to becoming blasé about errors, and Grayson agreed, saying you can strive for zero errors, but reality dictates they’re going to happen. Accepting that doesn’t mean condoning it, and it comes down to how the errors are handled, Grayson said.

Cebollero disagreed, taking Friese’s side.

“Are we setting up the organization to say, ‘make a mistake, it’s ok,” and not taking the side of saying ‘we want you to give your best?’” he asked. 

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