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The Importance of EMS Documentation

By David Givot

The best part of EMS is also one of the most dangerous: people. The people of EMS demonstrate qualities like compassion and respect and hope on a daily basis for all the world to see and hopefully emulate. Likewise, even the best people are prone to mistakes and emotions and, in a flickering instant of fatigue or poor judgment, can bear responsibility for the loss of human life. For EMS providers, it is that constant specter of death that should keep judgment clear and focus sharp. Such was not the case for the DC paramedic who made the mistake of playing doctor.

Having lectured on EMS/Legal topics to thousands of providers from coast to coast and even in Canada, my summation is always the same: Protocols and procedures, training and documentation are the cage that protects providers from the bevy of hungry and ruthless sharks that swim around them on every call. Inside the protections of the cage, the provider is as safe as a provider can be. Outside, however, is where patients die and careers end.

Perhaps the most significant protection for providers is EMS documentation. Fundamentally, documentation cannot be complete unless the care is appropriate and appropriate care can only be achieved when the assessment is thorough.

Would a better assessment, more comprehensive care, or more thorough documentation saved Mr. Givens' life? We will never know. But as the providers in DC have learned the hard way, providers who step out of the cage get eaten.

David is a practicing Defense Attorney in Los Angeles and a former paramedic. Read his columns at The Legal Guardian. 

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