Inspired in part by Motorcop and his hatred for the confusion between jail and prison I too would like to clear a few things up for the general public.  Nearly everything you have ever seen on TV about fire, police and EMS is false, yet you assume it to be accurate.  Especially all the medical dramas…I get that you watched season 3 of Grey’s last night and know what abdominal pain could be, but listen, it was probably the 4 packages of TGIFridays jalapeno poppers, not an AAA, so sit down before you hurt yourself and actually need an ambulance.

Misconception #1: You call for an ambulance.

When your kid cuts his finger, when your cough won’t go away or when your neighbor seems to be walking funny and the Today Show says it could be a stroke, you do not call an ambulance.


You call for help.


The help that arrives is what you want, don’t look at me funny when you report your kid’s laceration won’t stop bleeding and I arrive 4 minutes later in a big red truck.  Don’t get testy when I tell you the ambulance is coming but that he doesn’t need it.  I’m the expert, I’m going to talk for a few minutes and you’re going to do what I say.

OK, not really, the law makes YOU in charge of this emergency, what was I thinking?

In your extensive medical wisdom you’ve decided junior’s finger needs the ER, despite my assurances to the contrary and your ambulance has arrived.  We aren’t doing anything for him because, aside from the self adhesive bandage I have already applied, there is nothing more we, or the ER, can do.  “But because we go in with you, we’ll get seen quicker, right?”

Misconception #2: Arriving by ambulance will get you seen quicker.

No, no no my friend.  When you arrive by car and go inside and wait in line, then the person behind the desk asks you to fill out all the info and they let you see a nurse real quick, then sit and wait, that is called triage.

Triage is a word that means to sort.  We take the sickest people first.  Well, the ER does, I have to take every Tom Dick and Harry who asks, completely ruining what could be a proper working system, but that’s another blog entirely.  Well…not really, but we’re off track now.  See what you’ve done?

When we bring you in by ambulance, no lights and sirens, stopping for every red light, we’re traveling no faster than you could be.  Then we arrive to a little nurse’s station where they collect your info and the SAME NURSE checks you out real quick.  Now guess what happens.  If you’re not sick enough to be seen right away, we take you off the cot and walk you to the chairs in the waiting room.  Then we make sure we have your billing address correct and say good day.

Misconception #3: The ER fills and refills prescriptions.

Cough been keeping you awake all night?  Too bad you never got that prescription filled.  You see, when a Doctor examines and diagnoses you, they may write a prescription for medication.  This little form lists your medication, dose and instructions and is the Doctor’s way of healing you, but you have to go just a might further on your own.  Goto the local Walmart and go back to that cool little office in the back and hand them the piece of paper the Doctor gave you.  You’re going to have to wait a few minutes, so go wander the tackle isle and wait for your name to be called.

Take the medicine home, read the instructions and follow them.  Oddly, your health will improve.  I know, weird.

Calling 911 at 4 in the morning and handing me the prescription will not help.  I do not dispense medications,  I administer them when indicated.  The ER does not have a pharmacy that dispenses medicines, just one that facilitates administration.  The ER will look at the prescription form and point you in the direction of the nearest 24 hour pharmacy.  I tried that, but you wouldn’t listen to reason and do the right thing, you demanded transport.  When you get home in 45 minutes, don’t call back.

Misconception #4: Your Doctor will be at the hospital.

Hate to break it to you Erma, but Dr Johnson is NOT at St Farthest today, it’s Sunday and he’s an endocrinologist.  He works for the same corporation as your hospital, cubbied into a group for billing purposes and is allowed access to your insurance corporation’s network of specialists and tests, but he is not there.  He will not be there, nor will I call him to let him know you’re going in again.  He will be notified should your condition warrant review by someone of his specialty.

Only once in my career have I seen a primary care race to the ER to meet a patient and she had more money than God, which gets you that kind of attention.  But still only gets her me in a City ambulance.  Figure that one out.


There it is, a quick list of some of the most common misconceptions in modern Emergency Medical Service.  If you ever wonder why it’s taking so long for an ambulance, chances are we’re taking care of someone who wants it, but doesn’t need it.

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