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7 ways the iPhone ruined EMS

Celebrate the iPhone’s 15th anniversary by silencing notifications, stowing it out of reach and connecting with the real people in your life


Apple marks 15 years since the original iPhone went on sale in 2007.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

It has been 15 years since the iPhone went on sale. EMS hasn’t been the same since smartphones, (iOS or Android) became required equipment for every EMT and paramedic.

It’s easy to list the benefits of a supercomputer connected to all the world’s information, but on the iPhone’s auspicious crystal anniversary, it’s also worth considering all the ways the iPhone and other smartphones have ruined EMS.

Here’s my list of seven. What would you add?

  1. Dangerous roadways: The roadway is far more dangerous, as too many drivers, us included, are reading, tapping and thumbing their phone screen instead of paying attention to other vehicles, their speed, maintaining a safe following distance and keeping their vehicle between the lane lines.
  2. The endless scroll: During any free moment in the station, posting in the rig or standing in line at the coffee shop, we ignore one another. Instead of processing the last call, planning the next meal or learning about each other’s lives away from EMS, we absentmindedly scroll and tap.
  3. Sounding off: Instead of letting the minor irritants of EMS and the world sail around us, we can instantly access social media on our phone to shout into the void, affirm the rants of other keyboard warriors and complain about any infraction, no matter how minor or inconsequential.
  4. Expertise … from anyone: Any EMS question can be crowdsourced, liked or downvoted. There was a time when new medics asked their preceptors questions or looked to more experienced providers for guidance. Now the EMT with the most followers or the medics with the highest podcast rating are more trusted than the medic in the captain’s chair.
  5. Never away from home: On duty, the iPhone makes us always available to friends and family. Any question or problem on the home front is a ding or buzz that presents a problem we can’t actually solve, while also reminding our loved ones of our absence. It used to be that those questions or problems became the stories we heard about when we got home.
  6. Never away from work: Off duty, the iPhone makes us always available to coworkers and supervisors. The scheduling software notifies us of open shifts and overtime opportunities, and if your availability isn’t confirmed fast enough, a text message and phone call from your supervisor is next. Text message chains, combining on-duty and off-duty crews, bring constant reminders that the work never stops, even when you try to get away.
  7. Public perception problems: John Q. Public, equipped with the best camera he’s ever owned, is a few taps away from being featured on the local news. Mr. Public can now document his perceived misuse of taxpayer money with he snaps you buying groceries for your first meal in nine hours, parked at the emergency department because the staff refuse to accept your patient, or finally getting a nap in the Circle K parking lot after 17 hours of continuous calls.

Of course, the iPhone and the information revolution it has unlocked can be a powerful force for good in EMS and your personal life. But the best way to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the iPhone is to silence notifications, stow your phone out of reach, recharge yourself, and talk to the person in the seat next to you about life, the universe and everything else.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on Twitter or LinkedIn and submit an article idea or ask questions with this form.

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