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Poll call: How long EMS1 readers believe providers should look for a patient

We asked our audience, “How long should you look for a patient you can’t locate?”

The man with a flashlight stand on wet road. Evening night time

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By EMS1 Staff

If you’re dispatched to a scene but are unable to find the patient, is it your responsibility to find them?

A private ambulance service in Milwaukee is under scrutiny following the death of a woman after the two paramedics who responded left the scene when they were unable to locate her. The patient had slipped on ice and hit her head, falling behind a snowbank. The paramedics did not leave their rig, but said they checked all four corners of the intersection and did not see her. After 6 minutes, the providers left the scene to respond to another call.

What is the protocol at your agency? Are you required to locate the patient that required the 911 call? If not, how long is acceptable before leaving the scene?

Of those who responded, 64% said providers should look for a patient for 5-10 minutes before leaving the scene. Only 23% of respondents said they should continue looking until the patient is accounted for. Additionally, 6% of respondents recommended looking for less than 5 minutes, while another 6% suggested looking until a high priority call comes in.


What responders are saying

  • “There isn’t a number. 10, 15, whatever. What you do has to be reasonable. I would argue that staying in the truck isn’t reasonable in this situation.”
  • “I would have gotten out on foot, but it all comes down to circumstances and what is reasonable.”
  • “Long enough to get out of your truck and check sidewalks not just drive thru the intersection.”
  • “That’s a pretty subjective concept. Call us to an unconscious in a gas station, we’ll clear inside of 5 minutes if we don’t locate anyone. But dispatch an overturned vehicle down an embankment with a report of an ejected driver, we’ll be there a while with FLIR/Thermal, maybe even a drone up.”
  • “Depends on the situation, third party caller? Not long.”
  • “I know we were called to automobile accident and looked for hours lots of blood however later found out patient was transported by POV.”