RSS

The Pride Defense

Now that I’ve had ampule opportunity to digest my heaping portion of syllabus salad with boot camp dressing (And So It Begins…), it’s high time we take the swan dive off the high board and find out just what it is I have gotten myself into. With blind enthusiasm, I lept; landing with a thud and a huge splash in medical legal issues class.

Medico-Legal class – what else can I say. Yes, it is dull, it is boring, and it is necessary. It turns out I had prejudged the class though… this one was about to get interesting

My twisted sense of humor grew fond of the instructor (a lawyer-paramedic) telling us “unless you want your policy and procedure manual and that big ole binder with our protocols in it reconstituted in suppository form by some slimy lawyer, you will…” It would be remained funny if he hadn’t said it so often. I had a similar fascination with recto-cranial impaction for awhile so I get the draw.

After the standard misfeasance, malfeasance, abandonment, HIPPA, Good Samaritan laws, etc. Something came over him and he changed from the boring legal guy into a genuine caring paramedic.

“Look I know this stuff sucks, but it is important” Now that we have talked about the required DOT stuff let me give you MY medico-legal class. The stodgy lawyer guy was gone, as were the bad jokes and the lawyer “smell” that permeates the room sometimes when you there is an ambulance chaser attorney in the room.

There before us was a medic who genuinely cared about us as students, about his patients and EMS in general. “I’ve been doing this a long time ladies and gents, and it all comes down to three things. Three little rules that will ALWAYS have you on the right side of any encounter or treatment you render. 3 little rules that will ensure you are delivering the highest quality patient care that you each are individually capable of, and yes for those of you that worry about such things, 3 little rules that will cover your ass.

“Get out your pens and something to write with – THIS is important. In this line of work it isn’t a question of if you get sued, it’s a question of when, and in addition to making you a better medic, these 3 rules will make you as bulletproof as a medic can be. Ready…”

1 – Do what is in the best interest of your patient (this of course should be our guiding principle always)

2 – Do what your medical director would want you to do (sometimes harder to know than what is in your patient’s best interest – depending on your particular medical director and service – this one could be a sticky wicket for some of you out there.)

3- Do what you would be proud to defend. (WOW… I have never heard it put so simply and so brilliantly before.)

“Do those three things and your patients will get the treatment they need, your service will get the medic they deserve and YOU ladies and gentleman will be able to sleep at night and hold your head high when you tell people you are a Paramedic. Have a good night.”

The moment was lost on some, as they eagerly picked up their books and bolted, or began to discuss what bar they were going to meet at for beers after class. For a few of us though, we just sat there in stunned silence – jaws agape.

I felt like I had just been given the meaning of life…

Let’s be honest, if all of us could just do number three ALL the time, how much simpler would our lives as EMS providers be. Would we even need rule number 1 or 2 if we could always do 3?

Call me an idealist (you’d be right), but think about all the negative news stories you have ever heard about EMS, EMTs, Paramedics, ambulance services – public and private – How many of those stories would simply dissolve into nothingness if the individuals involved had followed rule number 3?

Do what you would be proud to defend – it’s so simple yet so eloquent.

It should be easy to remember, not most of the time, not for 98% of the calls – but for EVERY single call we run – including the “drunk” at 3 am that swears that telephone pole jumped into the road, 95 YO nana who fell down and just wants help back up when all you want to do is sleep, AND the emergent response to 7-11 – you know the one the “man down” call that proves to be a convenience store attendant is tired of looking at the homeless guy sleeping outside so he calls 911 and says “man down”.

I can’t speak for anybody but me, but I know I would not be proud to have to defend every single action I have ever taken on a call. How about you? Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say that you have honestly given every patient you have ever encountered your best?

If you can say that, then either you are deluding yourself, or your best might need a little work. For those who will say I have given every single patient, every single time nothing but the absolute best I had to offer and are neither delusional nor incompetent – where do I put in my application, I would be honored to work with such an legend partner  EMS God.

For the rest of us human EMS providers, I learned something when I was in the Corps that has stuck with me to this very day “If it feels good to do or to say – you probably shouldn’t” Following this mantra has extracted me from more than one situation that could have turned out much worse then it did. I have used it in both personal and professional life; it wasn’t until sitting in a classroom full of bored paramedic students that it hit me. My mantra was indeed sound, but it didn’t go quite far enough, particularly when dealing with someone who very well may be having the worst day of their lives.

Pride is defined as “feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself” (1)

As I continue the journey toward the glittery disco patch, the first standard of care that I intend to change from my days as a basic is to try to remember to always ask myself  “Would I be proud to defend what I am about to do ?”

Now that is a gold standard to try and live up to.

(1)    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/proud

 

Posted by on October 1, 2011 in compassion, EMS, EMS 2.0, EMT, legal, Paramedic School, Personal

Leave a comment

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

SOAP – Not just for your hindquarters anymore – Conclusion

The original plan was to type out one of these sections daily until I had finished it, BUT thanks to a standby yesterday that went a whole 4 hours longer than it was scheduled for I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday. SO lucky you. You get a double dose of documentation in a single setting… Don’t you feel special 😉

The A section is the place for your assessment of the patients condition, I know over the years we have all been told we don’t diagnose in EMS and that’s true, but it’s also a misconception. You HAVE to form some kind of opinion of what is wrong with the patient, otherwise how do you decide what to do for them? You have an opinion – write it down, the diagnosis box at the hospital will be filled in by the ED doc, and I don’t care how big a rock star you are. He isn’t going to just copy what you write down. Don’t be afraid to form an opinion of what is wrong with the patient or to express that opinion; even if you never say the words your treatment tells everyone what you suspect is wrong.

In the scenario patient we’ve been documenting his injuries are obvious and I would have absolutely no qualm with writing them down as you will see, but what about nana who presents with a medical condition you can’t be quite as sure of? You still will have formed an opinion of what is wrong with her, but you can’t be sure if it’s CVA, A TIA, or is secondary to a previous CVA and she’s just presenting with a case of generalized weakness. Two little letters R/O (rule out) come in extremely handy in these situations. You can list every suspected injury, illness or condition with confidence when preceded by the letters R/O; this is a suggestion to the ED that based on your assessment you believe they should look for ______________.

Generally speaking, that should be sufficient to satisfy even the most ardent defenders of the “we don’t diagnose” argument.

You wouldn’t dream of walking into the ED and in your hand off report telling the doc: Well Doctor Smith, the patient presented with an asymmetric smile, slurred speech and arm drift that occurred suddenly about 30 minutes ago, but I have no idea what’s wrong with her…. You would say she’s suffered a stroke. If you would say it don’t be afraid to write it as well, granted we can’t tell if the patient is having a TIA, or a CVA, but at this point neither can the doc… He needs to see if the symptoms resolve and examine the scans, but if this is a concern for you then list your assessment as: R/O CVA/TIA

Enough of my SOAPbox (pun intended) grandstanding, back to the narrative.

A:

Tension Pneumothorax

Intra-abdominal bleeding

Hypoglycemia

Fx Left Femur

Scalp Lac 

During our exam we confirmed each of these injuries; I have no problem writing them exactly as I did, if it makes you feel better put an R/O in front of them.

Finally the last section P – procedures – this is the section where you document EVERYTHING you did for the patient. This is one of the sections I see A LOT of people skimp on, I was guilty of it myself until I was set straight by my paramedic partner in an ED lounge one day. He had a valid point and I adopted the things he told me and my reports have never been better because of it.

We are required to obtain consent from our patients before we ever touch them right? DO you document it?

What about how the patient got into the ambulance, or if you fastened all the straps on the cot?

Then there is always how the patient got into the ED… I think you get the drift.

DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT – more than any other THIS is the section lawyers have a field day with, if it isn’t here you DID NOT do it period.

Disclaimer first – the treatments below are based on our local protocols, and any ALS interventions were suggested by one of our paramedics whom I greatly respect… I am a basic so if I botch the dosage or something it’s because I didn’t know any better – (that’s why I’m going to paramedic school next month after all)

P: Consent, assumed control of patient’s C-spine from bystander, primary survey, survey interrupted to perform needle decompression (10g, 2nd intercostal space, midclavicular line, with flutter valve), ventilatory assistance via BVM with reservoir and 15 LPM O2, initial survey resumed, Trauma activation called into St. Injury Trauma Hospital, interview, CMS check, C-collar sized and applied, Pt log rolled onto long spine board and secured with spider straps (back exam performed during log roll), head blocks applied and patients head and blocks secured to board with 2″ tape, CMS check, Patient loaded onto cot using long board by crew, foot of long board raised aprox 6 inches by placing med box under it (Trendelenburg), all 5 straps fastened and side rails raised, patient loaded into back of ambulance by crew, Patient transported emergent to St. Injury Trauma Center, vascular access (bilateral A/C, 14g angio, blood pump), BGL, fluid challenge 20ml/kg started (1600 ml total), vitals, 3 lead cardiac monitor, head to toe survey, 50ml (25 gm)D50 administered via established IV – Right arm, CMS check of Left leg, traction splint applied (to help relieve pain), CMS check of left leg, 12 lead cardiac monitor, vitals, repeat BGL, monitor decompression site for patency, call in consult to S.I.T.H Dr. Bones to administer 2 mcg/kg fentanyl, order received from Dr. Bones 1 mcg/kg fentanyl IV. 80 mg fentanyl IV via established IV in left arm, vitals, CMS check, patient unloaded from ambulance by crew on cot and wheeled into ED – red 1, patient transferred from cot to bed on long board by crew with assistance of SITH staff, hand off report given to trauma team RN, Patient and care transferred to SITH ED staff without incident.

John Q. Rockstar NREMT-P, Ambulance Company

————————————END OF NARRATIVE—————————————

While some of the treatments the patient got may be open for discussion, there is NO question about what was and what was not done for this patient.

So let’s take a look at the narrative from top to bottom start to finish.

 

NARRATIVE

Ambulance 123 and engine 456 dispatched emergent to go fast speedway at 123 any street for an auto-ped MVC

U/A found approx 20 YO M pt lying next to the race track in a semi prone position. Patient’s c-spine is being held by track employee and two other track employees are talking to the patient. Patient’s pants have a large tear in them in the left upper leg region and the left leg is bent at an awkward angle. Blood is visible in the patient’s hair and the patient appears very pale.

S: Pt is a 23 YO M. Patient states he “Can’t breathe” and his “chest and leg hurt”. Patient speaks in one to two word sentences and is confused and disoriented. Patient states that “a car drove right over me!” Patient states he isn’t sure how long ago this occurred.

HEENT: no complaints – pt states he “thinks he feels blood running down his face, but it could be sweat”

Chest: pt C/O pain to left chest – Pt denies having this pain before the collision, breathing/moving makes it hurt worse, pain is described as being sharp and squeezing at the same time, patient denies any radiation, pt rates the pain a 10

Back: no complaints

Abdomen: Pt C/O pain on palpation, patient denies any pain before accident, “you pushing on it” makes it worse, pain is described as dull all over his abdomen with no specific site, patient denies any radiation, patient rates the pain a 6

Pelvis: no complaints

Lower extremities: Pain to Left upper leg, patient denies having any pain before the accident, trying to move it makes it worse, pain is described as sharp and pulsating, patient denies any radiation, and rates the pain as a “12″

Upper extremities: no complaints

Allergy to PCN

Medications: insulin

PMHx: DM 2

Patient does not remember the last time he ate.

Patient also states he has a headache and some dizziness. Patient denies N/V/D as well as any LOC, but says he isn’t sure about that.

Bystanders give verbal report as follows: patient was walking from the pit area when he was struck by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. Bystanders say that car did in fact drive over the patient saying he collapsed on impact and went under the car. Bystanders add that the patient was unconscious until just prior to our arrival. Bystanders also report that patient has not been moved and that track personnel were to him almost immediately keeping him still and “holding his head”.

O:

INITIAL EXAM

Airway: Open and patent

Breathing: Rapid w/ poor movement

Circulation: rapid radial pulse, minor bleeding from scalp lac, no major bleeding found

Skin: Pale, Cool, diaphoretic, cyanosis noted around lips

LOC: confused and abusive, won’t follow commands

Head: Blood in hair, no active bleeding, no other wounds noted, PERRL

Neck: No DCAP/BTLS noted, possible tracheal deviation to the right, positive JVD

Chest: Contusions noted to left chest, no paradoxical movement, crepitus and tenderness on palpation, breath sounds absent on left

Abdomen: slightly distended, tender to palpation

Pelvis: No DCAP/BTLS – intact and stable

Upper legs: Swelling, tenderness, deformity of left upper leg, normal CMS

Lower legs and arms: no injuries noted

Posterior: No DCAP/BTLS

Initial vitals: 90/50, pulse 150, respirations 36

GCS: 13 (eyes – 4, verbal -4, motor -5)

Sensory and motor function: normal

SECONDARY SURVEY: performed after initial interventions – en route to hospital

Airway: patent

Breathing: improved movement of air, less work to breathe, breath sounds now present on the left although diminished

Circulation: no major bleeding noted

Skin: pale, cool, diaphoretic, cyanosis around lips is improved

Vitals: 100/60, pulse 110, respirations 30

LOC: unchanged

GCS: unchanged

BGL: 40

Head: blood in hair from approx 4″ long scalp lac, no active bleeding, no battle sign or raccoon eyes, no drainage from ears or nose, face is atraumatic, PERRL

Neck: trachea appears more mid-line, JVD is no longer present – No DCAP/BTLS

Chest: unchanged

Abdomen: distension and tenderness are both increased from prior exam

Pelvis: unchanged

Upper extremities: NO DCAP/BTLS, Good CMS function

Lower extremities: Left leg in traction splint – CMS present, right leg no injuries noted

ONGOING EXAM: Performed after secondary interventions

BGL: 80

LOC: Patient is awake and alert, less combative and able to follow commands

GCS: 15

Breathing: movement of air continues to improve

Vitals: 110/70, pulse 110, respirations 30

Skin: unchanged

Neck: trachea remains midline and JVD remains absent

Chest: breath sounds still diminished on the left

Abdomen: distension/tenderness continues to worsen

Distal CMS on Left leg still intact and adequate

A:

Tension Pneumothorax

Intra-abdominal bleeding

Hypoglycemia

Fx Left Femur

Scalp Lac 

P: Consent, assumed control of patient’s C-spine from bystander, primary survey, survey interrupted to perform needle decompression (10g, 2nd intercostal space, midclavicular line, with flutter valve), ventilatory assistance via BVM with reservoir and 15 LPM O2, initial survey resumed, Trauma activation called into St. Injury Trauma Hospital, interview, CMS check, C-collar sized and applied, Pt log rolled onto long spine board and secured with spider straps (back exam performed during log roll), head blocks applied and patients head and blocks secured to board with 2″ tape, CMS check, Patient loaded onto cot using long board by crew, foot of long board raised aprox 6 inches by placing med box under it (Trendelenburg), all 5 straps fastened and side rails raised, patient loaded into back of ambulance by crew, Patient transported emergent to St. Injury Trauma Center, vascular access (bilateral A/C, 14g angio, blood pump), BGL, fluid challenge 20ml/kg started (1600 ml total), vitals, 3 lead cardiac monitor, head to toe survey, 50ml (25 gm)D50 administered via established IV – Right arm, CMS check of Left leg, traction splint applied (to help relieve pain), CMS check of left leg, 12 lead cardiac monitor, vitals, repeat BGL, monitor decompression site for patency, call in consult to S.I.T.H Dr. Bones to administer 2 mcg/kg fentanyl, order received from Dr. Bones 1 mcg/kg fentanyl IV. 80 mg fentanyl IV via established IV in left arm, vitals, CMS check, patient unloaded from ambulance by crew on cot and wheeled into ED – red 1, patient transferred from cot to bed on long board by crew with assistance of SITH staff, hand off report given to trauma team RN, Patient and care transferred to SITH ED staff without incident.

John Q. Rockstar NREMT-P, Ambulance Company

————————————END OF NARRATIVE—————————————

After reading through it top to bottom, do you have any question as to why this guy is in the ambulance, what is wrong with him, or how you intervened to try to help? Can you say the same thing about the last narrative you wrote?

Til next time…..

 

 

Posted by on August 1, 2011 in documetation, EMS, legal, Paramedic School

Leave a comment

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Documentation – Why bother?

During a conversation with one of the EMT students I had this week, the subject of documentation came up, it was bound to happen that they would find out about what many of us consider the absolute worst part of the job. It was only a matter of time before that “dirty little secret” came to light.

Speaking strictly for myself, documentation is the one skill I don’t ever want to “practice” – it seems so trivial to us in the grand scheme of things, that many of us are inclined to say things like “I didn’t take this job to be a billing specialist,” or some other equally inappropriate comment like “what difference will my documentation make to whether this patient lives or dies?” It’s not so much that we mind having to take the time to write stuff down, it’s just that it’s dull, boring and when not viewed in the light of how important it actually is,  it can be seen as a waste of time.

Documentation mostly gets a bad rap – we’ve all heard the line “if you didn’t write it down it didn’t happen”, many of us have likely heard something along the lines of  “oh sure make me write it down so it can be used against me later, “or perhaps you’ve gotten the call from the billing office that says “we can’t bill this trip because you didn’t document……”

It doesn’t have to be that way folks, let’s take a look at why documentation is so important and answer/address some of the common misconceptions we all too often have about it. Properly appreciating the value of good documentation can be had when we take the time to understand all the things those “seemingly meaningless” documents are actually used for.

From our standpoint as providers, the most important aspect of the patient care report (PCR) is that it is a clinical document that follows your patient through their hospital stay. It allows later providers to experience the event their patient is being treated for from the beginning to the present. Let’s put that in a context we can relate to:

  • How many times have you been able to get an accurate history of your patient at a nursing home? How frustrated do you get when you are unable to establish a “normal” baseline for your patient? Is that facial droop normal, how about the slurred speech and left-sided weakness? Ummm I don’t know they aren’t my patient, or I’m not the normal nurse over here – I’m just covering and I have never had this patient before ….

Speaking only for myself – I know what I think about the care that patient is getting or the level of professionalism of the caretaker I just spoke to. Do YOU want to be seen in that same light when some provider down the line tries to decipher your PCR and can’t get any information from it? I know I don’t want people to think about me or the care I provided to my patient that way.

Just as poor documentation that is missing important information says your care was sloppy and that you were not thorough in your treatment, professional documentation that is thorough implies that your care was as well. You can be the best provider in the world, but if your documentation looks as if it was done by a kindergartener, it will be ASSUMED that the care you provided was also performed at that level.

I know we all think our reports are totally ignored by ED staff but in actuality, they are carefully reviewed and incorporated into the patients chart.

Additionally, the documentation you write every day is what is reviewed when the effectiveness of our systems is critiqued. Studies on pre-hospital interventions are based largely on what we write in those reports, statistics, effectiveness of treatments even compliance with federal, state and local laws all are based on the documentation we provide.

The information you document in a PCR may not make a difference in whether or not that particular patient lives or dies – BUT it may make a difference in whether a patient you treat down the line does…  QA/QI processes are based almost solely on our documentation, and those sessions help determine how effective and appropriate our care was. QA/QI can be “painful” – espicially when it is your call under review. These sessions, in my experience, are generally not used as witch hunts where management goes looking for someone to blame for a negative outcome; instead, when used properly they are used to teach providers how to more effectively treat their patients in the future, maybe as a result of this process – local protocols are adjusted to allow us to better serve those who depend on us.

Of course you knew it was coming, any discussion of documentation would be incomplete without a discussion of the medical-legal aspects of what we write down, but we only ever see the downside of this. Instead of viewing your PCR’s as something to be used against you, I suggest you see them as your blue tights with the red S on the chest, your armor if you will. Thorough documentation is not something we should fear should a case go to court, instead knowing your treatment was solid, your decisions sound and your patient well cared for AND that you covered all the bases and documented all of that should alleviate that concern for you. Yes, we have all heard cases where pre hospital providers have been sued and some even where they lost, BUT those cases are due to POOR documentation.

We live an extremely litigious society, people will sue for anything they perceive as a payday for them, it’s a sad fact of the world we live in (and one of the reasons health care reforms will never achieve the desired results – sorry that’s another post). Instead of looking at your documentation as the weapon some ambulance chasing shark is going to use to surgically separate you and your retirement savings, view it is the shield that will stand up to the most rigorous of slimy lawyer assaults. You’ve heard it said if you didn’t write it down you didn’t do it… so counter that by simply writing it down. Civil suits usually start with a PCR being reviewed by some expert, their opinion of your REPORT (not your care) is often the deciding factor in whether or not a case progresses – a well-organized professional report will imply well-organized professional care and more often than not, will nip a suit against you in the bud.

Suppose it does progress further… suppose you are called to the stand to testify, how many calls do you run a day? Now multiply the number of calls/day by the number of shifts you work in say a year… can you still remember the details of all of those cases? Your PCR needs to have enough information to help you remember the call and the patient – go to whoever stores your PCR’s at the service where you work/volunteer and ask them to pull one of your PCR’s from a past call say a week, a month even a year ago – can you remember that call based on what you wrote in your report? If the answer is no you aren’t documenting accurately or completely enough to make yourself bulletproof… NOW is the time to fix that not when your retirement fund is on the line.

Billing – it is an unfortunate fact that ambulance services for the most part are businesses and as such they need to make money. Your PCR needs to document accurately what you did for the patient and why. Not only so that the company can make a buck, but more importantly so your patient isn’t unnecessarily billed for a higher level of care then they received or needed. If you run a paramedic/EMT car if the patient only needed BLS then they should only be billed for BLS, but you may need to justify that decision down the line, you can’t do that without proper documentation. It’s a pain in the ass and the single question that I absolutely HATE asking my patients “Mrs. Jones, can you tell me do you have insurance, and if so can you please provide me with the necessary information?” It makes me feel like crap and I hate asking… BUT recently I have begun to see this in another light as well. If I take the 2 minutes to get Mrs. Jones insurance information – how much hassle and headache am I saving HER down the line by having the bill sent directly to her insurance company? How much easier have I made dealing with the financial burden our services can cause by taking that simple step and documenting it. I look at it as an extension of patient care, and when I explain to my patients that I’m asking to save them the headache of sorting it out later, they are usually grateful that I asked, and that makes me feel a little better about asking.

The bottom line with billing… no it isn’t why any of us got into this line of work, BUT it is what KEEPS us in this line of work. Yes, there are services out there that do not bill (oh how I envy those of you that work for them) but for most of us, continued employment depends on continued operations and that my fellow provider is largely related to billing.

Luckily, documentation is a skill – it can be taught, practiced an improved and that will be what we’ll discuss the next few days.

Til next time…

 

Posted by on July 28, 2011 in documetation, EMS, legal

Leave a comment

Tags: , , , , , ,