Remembering Our Purpose as EMS

Written by Mike Ringo, EMT

Eventually, over time throughout your career in Emergency Medical Services, you will come to a point of being annoyed by the lower acuity calls. It happens to all of us, and if you are new it will happen to you as well. You have two choices, you can either become upset, angry, and a jerk, or you think of it like this:

We all entered this career without really knowing what the job demands were; the roles and responsibilities, long hours, effects on our loved ones, the laughs, work wife/husband, and the family you form while on shift.

During school, you are taught all about emergent care and how to treat life-threating conditions. You are taught how to prioritize patients. You are taught how to be a leader.

In class, they hardly ever teach us why we are called upon to provide our services.

Let me break it to you… we are not called for the emergent care we are taught the majority of the time. We are generally called out for someone that doesn’t need an Emergency Department, Air Medical, or life-sustaining treatments. We are called out mostly for people that could be treated by their PCP, Acute Care Clinic, or stand-alone care centers.

These lower acuity calls are going to make or break you.

This is where you can have the opportunity to make the best impression or the worst impression on the patient or their loved ones.

Patients who call us for a lift assist are asking for our help because they physically cannot get up off the floor. If they are naked, they are asking a stranger they have never met, into their house to help them when they are already defeated and feel vulnerable.

It’s the old lady calling 911 for her stomach ache or UTI. She can’t drive, might live alone, her husband can’t drive, and family doesn’t live anywhere close. We are the only access she has to get better.

I could continue to write about the hundreds of calls you will respond to that are similar to this.

They all have one thing in common – they need transport or assistance, and we are the only resource available to them.

When we have the opportunity to respond to these calls, we need to take pride in the fact we have been trusted to help someone in their worst moments, when they feel defeated, when they are alone, when they have no one else to call.

It is our job to give them the best service we can, to make them feel comfortable, and to let them know they are cared for. I cannot recall off the top of my head who told me this (I wish I could) “we do not get to decide what an emergency is, for them this is an emergency.” This is so incredibly true.

Throughout our education and work experiences, we objectively know what is and isn’t a true emergency. We must look past our impression of an emergency and realize this is an emergency to the person who called, based upon what they have experienced through their life. They felt it was necessary to call 911 for their particular issue.

We must address that issue. We must make them feel comfortable. We must make them feel comfortable with us, strangers, in their house.

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