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Excellence In EMS

Saving lives.

That’s the short slogan common in the fire safety and EMS field. But there’s more to it than that. I believe our end goal is to lessen life’s hard blows by using our skills and confidence to guide people through an emergency.

A few years ago, on October 8th to be exact, a miracle happened. Around 2 a.m., the police department, fire department, and local ambulance service responded to a man down, no pulse, not breathing. My crew was one of the first to arrive on scene. The family was young: three kids, the oldest a senior at the local high school.

I walked into the back bedroom to see the police officer assisting the victim’s wife doing CPR. The children were staring wide-eyed at the devastating scene.

We began providing immediate patient care, confidently and appropriately handling the medical situation. We obviously had a critically ill patient.

What was the miracle? The miracle is that the father lived and is doing well. An example of teamwork, dedication, and elements beyond our control that went absolutely perfect. One more Thanksgiving to spend with loved ones.

That following Thanksgiving, I received a card from his wife:

“On October 8, you helped save my husband’s life. Thank you. I am deeply grateful for the work you did that night. Your calm confidence, your expert abilities, and your gentle spirit stand out in my memory of that night. As we drove in the ambulance, I remember some of our conversation…that little “connection” meant so much to me. It was as if God was reminding me, “I’m taking care of you. My husband is in good hands.” God has taken care of us! My husband is doing well and getting stronger daily. May God continue to use you in your work with the fire fighters and the ambulance team! We are grateful for the good work you do! I hope this Thanksgiving is a rich celebration for you and those you love.”

But it goes further than that. There was more than one patient. There were five. I watched as a father struggled between life and death and his wife and children struggled to cope with such an unbelievable reality.

Had I done anything that I considered heroic? No. Was I starting IV lines, ventilating, or monitoring the patient we just shocked out of v-fib? No. My role as a responder was different that evening. I stepped back and took a look at the family. Who was attending to them? Who was helping with unanswered questions? That’s where I was needed that cold fall night.

I explained to the woman that her husband was in the best hands possible and thanked her for her help that evening. I also asked her if we needed to make special accommodations to get the family to the emergency department. Since we had a number of qualified people on scene, I opted to drive the ambulance and talk with her on the way to the hospital. Our conversation was soft and quiet. A year to the date, I met up with the wife. She thanked me for being there that night. She said that the entire night was a blur except for our time together.

You have probably been lectured about customer service until you are can recite it yourself. That’s good. If you run in a tiered system and have multiple individuals on the scene, you need to be thinking about the patients’ needs – ALL of the patients’ needs. Not just whether their oxygen saturation is good or whether the c-spine is properly stabilized, but whether they have their house keys when we lock the door on our way out, or if we can phone family members or simply hold a hand on the way to the hospital.

A fellow responder once told me “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but People will never forget how you made them feel.” columnist Krisendath D. Kaull, a paramedic and former firefighter, specializes in technology trends and their effect in Public Safety. During almost 15 years in both rural and urban fire and EMS settings, he has enhanced technology communications between field EMS providers and emergency departments.
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