6 lifesaving seat belt tips for EMTs and paramedics

Try these tips to make seat belt use in the patient care compartment just as normal as your personal vehicle

I am sure your department has a seat belt use policy. Yet, I observe few EMS professionals wearing a seat belt in the patient care compartment of the ambulance. When asked, I encounter responses that range from indifference to hostility when suggesting we should always wear our seat belts in a moving ambulance. In some organizations not wearing a seat belt was part of the culture.

Common complaints are that wearing a seat belt might compromise patient care by not being able to perform tasks like reaching for equipment, using a bag-valve mask, talking on the radio or compressing the patient's chest.

Always wear a seat belt when the ambulance is moving. (Photo/Greg Friese)
Always wear a seat belt when the ambulance is moving. (Photo/Greg Friese)

These are six tips for wearing a seat belt in the patient care compartment as much as possible.

1. Commit

Start by making a personal commitment to use a seat belt on every transport.

2. Assess and treat on scene

Maximize assessment and interventions performed before transport starts based on patient condition and protocol.

3. Optimize patient care compartment

Organize your workspace so the tools and equipment you will most likely need are within reach during transport.

4. Hospital report

Use a smartphone or handheld to call in the hospital report, if allowed, so you can talk from any seat belted position.

5. Likely supplies at your side

For additional supplies needed during the call, I like to keep the first-in bag belted to the seat next to me. I use supplies from there and replenish the bag from the cabinets after the call.

6. Only leave your seat when the vehicle is stopped

If you must leave your seat, try to wait until the vehicle comes to a halt at a stop sign or red light.

Finally, if your service routinely transports pulseless patients, it is well past time to have a thoughtful conversation with your medical director and service director about the efficacy of manual chest compressions in an ambulance relative to the risk to you and your colleagues.

Share your tips for maximizing seat belt use in the patient care compartment.

This article, originally published November 24, 2009, has been updated with current information

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