Kindness, reassurance to every patient builds EMS heroes

Starting every patient contact as a service opportunity is part of the job and creates opportunities for true heroism


Most of us in emergency services know that our work is full of the mundane, oddball happenings, a lot of gallows humor, and occasionally moments of pure heroism.

Those heroic events come in many forms, and almost always we shrug off our efforts as just part of the job. In fact, the vast majority of these day-to-day heroics are never reported in mainstream media.

Look at the efforts of this dispatcher responding to a disguised 911 call from a woman who was in danger, featured in a commercial seen by millions during the 2015 NFL Superbowl. 

First, Keith Weisinger  had to overcome the instinctual response of dismissing the call as a prank and remain a professional. After looking up the history of the address he quickly realized that real trouble existed and that law enforcement needed to respond. Remaining calm, Weisinger was able to reassure the caller that she would receive help before she had to disconnect from the phone. That must’ve been a moment of pure relief for her.

Weisinger’s singular action of remaining cool and focused in a stressful situation serves as a great lesson of what “customer service” means in EMS. I know that term rankles some folks – "we don’t have ‘customers,' we have ‘patients!” That doesn’t change the mindset that whomever we take care of, should be done in a respectful manner.

That also goes for patients who don’t offer respect in return. Our patients are sometimes belligerent, abusive or dismissive. So what? They can still be sick or in need of assistance that we aren’t able to provide. It’s our responsibility to help where we can.

And even when it’s clear that the person doesn’t need our assistance, or is simply being a jerk, there’s no need to respond in kind. There’s nothing more disconcerting to someone that is being rude or offensive than being killed by kindness. In my book a simple effort like this is really heroic.

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