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.



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

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Endings, beginnings and limbo

A couple of days ago I found out that I was in fact accepted into the paramedic program I have been working so hard to get into.  5 days later, after considering where I had been, where I wanted to go and where I am right now, I realized with that single phone call I reached an end, a new beginning and found myself in a sort of limbo.

It isn’t often that a single event can bring about all those paradigm shifts, life tends to reserve such a substantial change in perspective for equally substantial events. I can hear some of you saying it’s just paramedic school man, get over it; and yes, on the most basic of levels, you are right it is “just” paramedic school. Of course when you take into consideration that I have wanted to be a medic for over 20 years now, that I was away from EMS for over 15 years, and that I walked away from owning a successful construction company to return to the field I love, it takes on more meaning, If you factor in that I took a SUBSTANTIAL cut in salary to return to EMS, and that every decision I have made in my professional career over the last two years had led up to that phone call, well you might then begin to understand how important that phone call was to me.

Now I found myself wondering whats next – it’s no longer I want to go to p school this fall, it’s I am going to paramedic school this fall. It’s no longer have to do x,y,z to impress the selection committee, it’s I have to do x,y,z because it’ll make me a better paramedic student and ultimately a better paramedic. The pre-requisite classes are now all officially over and it feels as if this stage is coming to a close. I didn’t get to this stage by myself, it took a lot of support from people who care, it took a gentle kick in the kiester (or two) and someone to believe in me and tell me I could do it.

Now that p-school is no longer something that I am working towards, it is something I will be in. I find that all the anxiety about not getting in has now shifted to “oh my God, I got in… now I have to do more than just talk about it.” The whole new set of challenges, the new base of knowledge, even the physical demands of paramedic school all bring a renewed set of challenges, new obstacles to overcome. A new beginning to an old dream, needless to say, I am more than a little excited about it. So excited I find myself having to stifle the urge to start right this very minute… to not to dive into pharmacology, cardiology and patho phys. Not to say that I won’t prepare and try to get a head start, but I have some time for that still. Hell, I haven’t even received the new student packet yet.

That brings me to now and the “limbo” – school doesn’t start until September – and I can’t say what day in September yet – (see new student packet above) I’ve been so focused on getting in that now that I am in and until it starts I feel sort of lost, like I don’t know what I should be working on. The fun-loving side of my brain says take some time for yourself now – plan a trip up to the mountains and try to get as much “fun” in outside of work as you can because once school starts opportunities for that kind of recreation will be very few and very far between. The practical, professional, driven side of me says start studying now, because I can’t seem to suppress that drive to be the best (frankly, I don’t really want to either).

For the moment I think I will dwell in the satisfaction of a job well done, I will plan a trip to mountains before school starts and I will take a moment (or two) to breathe, before I start the early studying.

Til next time…


Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Paramedic School, Personal

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19 hours in 29 to go…

I’ll apologize ahead of time for this post as it may make little sense to anyone but me, and after a few hours of sleep, I may not even know what I was trying to say. Today was simply put one of those EMS days where everything is stacked against you from the beginning. We’ve all had them so I’m pretty sure you know what I mean.

My day started with me oversleeping, something I never do, I woke up 5 minutes past the time I needed to leave for my 48 hour shift in an outlying station… an hours drive from the house  on a good day minimum. With an “OH SHIT!!!” I flew out of bed and grabbed my phone to call my partner and let him know I was running late.

Luckily, I prepared my bag and gear ahead of time. 7 minutes later with a full mug of coffee in one hand, a duffel, sleeping bag and pillow in the other I ran out to the truck and hit the road. Being a “professional driver” I firmly planted my foot in the carburetor doing 90-95 all the way to work cursing myself between sips of morning go-go juice. I arrived only 10 minutes late which was pretty damn impressive to me, but drove me nuts all the same… I am not one of those EMT’s who shows up late EVER. I prefer to be early and actually thoroughly check out my rig for my own peace of mind… SO now I am late AND i have no peace of mind that my rig is stocked as it should be. Then I find we have an EMT student third rider – which normally I really enjoy, but knowing I just was the example to this impressionable young lady of exactly the type of  provider I get so pissed at that didn’t help my day any either.

Then the EMS Gods wreaked their vengeance on us, the tones went off NON stop all day… several times we were called out before actually clearing the hospital. SO much for students being “white clouds” or so I thought at the time. The calls today have been mentally challenging medical calls all of them except the last one anyway. I swear syncopal episodes were on sale at the dispatch shack today. Each call was an investigation, a series of asking questions, not just questions but the right questions to figure out why our otherwise completely healthy patient is lying on the floor with a bump on the head. After 10 hours our student left and then all hell really broke loose, we didn’t see the station at all for the next 7 hours – considering that the average transport time here is about 7 minutes – well you get the picture.

So now here I sit, bone weary, mentally spent a little drop of drool cascading down from the corner of my lip 19 hours into a 48… and after the day I had today all I can think is…

How lucky I am to do what I do. Yes, it was a tough day, challenging in every way shape and form. It was both mentally and physically exhausting and yet I still told every single patient I met today that it was my pleasure to be allowed the privilege of taking care of them in their time of need. I don’t need nor want their thanks… I want them to focus on getting well. For me its enough to know that someone needed help today bad enough to pick up the phone and call 911 – My partner and I answered… and together we made what could easily have been the worst day in that person’s life better just by being there and by showing them we cared. Who can ask for better rewards than that?

The drool on my chin is slowly inching towards the keyboard…and my pillow and sleeping bag are starting to bellow for me. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day – fewer people who need us, more people enjoying their lives – but if the call should come in… 2124 will be there and it will be our pleasure to have the honor of taking care of the person on the other end of the phone.

Till tomorrow – well technically later today – stay safe out there

PS Thank God for spell check 😉


Posted by on July 26, 2011 in EMS, Personal

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