A funny video has been making the rounds on the interwebs machine, an ad for Mercedes Benz.

In this video a woman walks into a library and tries to order lunch:

It’s funny, right?

Now imagine she wanders into an ambulance station and asks to be transported for a toothache.  Is it still funny?  She’s still in the wrong place asking for what she wants.

I hear from many corners of the EMS industry that we need to lose our “above them all” attitude and just take people in that want to go in.  “It’s their definition of emergency, not yours” is something I am tired of hearing.

What if I told you it’s her definition of library, not yours?

We are not Jim’s Emergency Medical Services, or Sally’s or even Justin’s.

Responders have been trained to handle specific situations using specific tools, medications and techniques.  If you can not be aided by those things, then perhaps we need to find another resource for you. Most communities do not offer these services on demand, but arrangements need to be made ahead of time. They either wait or call 911 and get immediate service.  In still other communities EMTs and Paramedics are discouraged from or worse, disciplined, for accepting refusal of transport.

I’m not advocating leaving the sick and injured in the streets, but adding some realism in addressing our current problems.  We do not face a shortage of ambulances in America but an overpopulation of “emergencies.”

When you get on scene of the young woman who bit her lip and didn’t know what to do so called 911, no matter how you dice it, that injury is not worth placing responders lives at risk to respond to, not to mention who might be told “We have no ambulances available” while you’re trying to nicely tell your patient how minor the injury is.  Add to that that some private services do not allow refusals, now they’re generating a bill for the bit lip and taking up a spot at the ER.

Rogue Medic reminds us that our concern when at the scene with a patient is that patient and not the next one.  I completely agree that when on scene we need to focus on the needs of that person and not what might happen.  But when looking at the system as a whole, someone needs to be thinking about the next run.  Supervisors, managers, Chiefs, EMS Educators, SOMEONE needs to be looking out for who might need those supplies, skills and equipment your patient is asking about while getting that ride.  In the back of the ambulance is not the place to theorize about EMS.  That place is here in online forums, at conferences and when meeting with your Medical Director, System Managers and Chiefs.

There are things we can and can’t do for our patients.  If all you can offer is a ride, is it still an emergency?  Think about it for a minute.  If it’s just the speakers not working, do we really need to call a tow truck “just to be sure?”

Awhile back I had a good back and forth with David Konig about comparing McDonald’s, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts to modern EMS.  He mentions the way Starbucks outdoes Dunkin not because of superior product, but because of superior customer service and a better customer experience.  It was in response to a series on Liability.

But those companies are still limited in the experience they can provide.  As I mentioned, when someone calls 911 for a reason I can not help with, nor any of my equipment, training or experience help with, do I still have to give them a positive experience?


And that means not transporting those who do not need it.  The same way Starbucks will not make the girl in the video a hamburger, or arrange for one to be delivered.  They’ll likely smile, ask her if she meant a venti Americano, and remind her she is asking for a service Starbucks can not provide.  Then a good employee will make sure the customer can find what they are looking for, leaving them a positive impression of the company.

“This is a Starbucks.”

“This is a library.”

“This is an ambulance.”

We’ll just load her in the ambulance and take her in because after all, it’s not our definition of emergency, it’s hers.

Should the librarian stop her work and fire up the grill? After all it’s her definition of library, not yours.

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