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Why paramedics do not run to treat patients

Running makes it harder to keep your cool and operate at peak effectiveness


A user on Quora recently asked, "Why don't paramedics run to emergency patients?" A few answers stood out to us, especially one by EMT Ross Cohen. You can read his reply below: 

I’m glad you asked, because I promise you it’s not due to a lack of concern. It’s actually perfectly logical when you see it from our point of view.

3 Main Reasons:

Running doesn't actually save much time. (Photo/City of Louisville)
Running doesn't actually save much time. (Photo/City of Louisville)
  1. Running is risky. If we trip, fall, get hurt — now there are two patients.
  2. Running to a patient prevents us from spotting hazards on the way in. Remember, we’re walking into an unknown. We must carefully observe and assess for danger. On the walk in, we’ll notice the downed power lines, the room full of people passed out from a gas leak, the dog protecting its injured owner, the hoarder’s junk on the floor when we round the corner, the attacker who assaulted the victim, the weapon lying next to the bystander, etc.
  3. Running makes it harder to keep our cool and operate at peak effectiveness. We need to be the calmest person in the room. Everyone takes their cues from us. We need to think clearly and act deliberately, decisively, expeditiously, smoothly. It’s hard to do that if your own heart is beating out of your chest, you’re breathing heavily and visibly excited. It takes mental discipline to restrain our own excitement and concern to work professionally and unemotionally in scary situations and adding significant physical exertion to an already stressful situation is not helpful.

5 Lesser Reasons:

  1. If the patient sees us running toward them, then they may become even more distressed. Our demeanor can be either a calming or aggravating influence.
  2. We’re carrying equipment: stretchers, chairs, oversized bags, expensive EKG monitors, etc. Some of these things we can barely walk with, let alone run.
  3. It doesn’t actually save much time. If we parked far away, which is rare, we’ll be quite out of breath running a long distance with our equipment and have that much more opportunity to get hurt. If we parked close by, as we usually do, we might shave at most a few seconds off our arrival time, which would not matter in 99.99 percent of cases.
  4. If you run on every call of every shift, across every street, down every driveway, up every flight of stairs, through every hallway … it’s just a matter of time before you twist an ankle, bang a knee, split a lip, fall down stairs, etc. I’ve known many EMTs who have gotten hurt and/or split their pants or something and that’s without running. We’re not professional athletes, injuries happen enough as it is and running would only add to it.
  5. We work on highways and high-rises. We work in backyards and back woods. We’re in people’s messy bedrooms and cramped basements. We climb stairwells and traverse steep inclines. We work in the rain, the heat, the cold and everything in between. Running just makes all these things harder.

Those are some of the reasons we don’t run. The only real reason to run is that people would stop assuming a lack of urgency/concern when we merely walk briskly toward them. Trust us, it’s way better for all involved if we avoid running.

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