Run.

It was cold when they left the house.

In the early morning hours they gathered a bag from the trunk of the car and walked to the end of the icy block.

At the stop sign was a friend idling, waiting.  Waiting to run.

Climbing into the warm car they felt a glimmer of hope for the first time in years.  The drive to the airport was silent, the younger one in the back seat falling asleep almost immediately.

It wasn’t until the plane finally left the ground that she took a deep breath, confident in the decision she had made.  4 year old asleep on her lap she allowed herself a drink to calm her nerves on the first flight to Anywhere But Here, USA.

Unfortunately the stress, lack of sleep and drink caught up to her when they arrived and the gate agent was concerned.  Medical assessment finding nothing of concern rescuers turned to the events leading to their arrival without bags or a ride anywhere.

“We are trying to get to Anytown*” she said through teary eyes.

The 4 year old seemed curious about the tiny fire engine outside the window.

“We have a connecting flight but I think we missed it because of…” she pointed to the rescuers, the gate agent, the airport and broke down crying.

The agent confirmed the flight had been missed bit because of circumstances causing their delay and the next flight was being arranged.  That flight was tomorrow morning, a good day away.

After the ambulance ride had been refused and the airline snacks consumed, the gate agent approached with wonderful news.  He had arranged for a hotel room and a shuttle for the woman, her child and their grocery bag of earthly belongings.

As she was assisted to the shuttle stop the reason for their sudden departure crashed awkwardly into the conversation.

“It just wasn’t safe for us anymore,” she said to the 4 year old boy.

“Not for me, not for him and not for who he’ll turn into if we stay,” she mentioned casually over her shoulder.

They were on the run from an unsafe home or telling the most believable cover story ever known.  Violence and intimidation had turned fear into action late the night before.  She had a plan, a friend she could trust and took the next opportunity to run.

“Do the local police know about the father?” I asked looking for the shuttle van.

“He left three years ago.  Decided he didn’t want a kid after all.  His replacement didn’t know what he wanted most days.”

We stood in silence for a good 10 minutes.  I wanted to go straight home and hug my family.

After the van pulled away from the curb local law enforcement was notified of their physical description, origin and location for the night just in case the story didn’t hold water.

A week later I was informed an officer had followed up at their location and confirmed they had arrived safely with family in Anytown.  Hopefully the little guy only remembers the little fire engine outside the window and not the reasons they had to run.

 

 

image credit Shanon Wise via creative commons

Inspiring our Peers

Ambulance Chaser, Driver and friend of the blog Wes Ogilvie has an inspiring post up today I just had to share.

“But if we, those of us who consider ourselves to be ‘good’ providers, motivated by the right things in emergency medicine, don’t make ourselves available as mentors, resources, or peer support providers, then someone else surely will.   These may be the the Low Information Voters who chant the shopworn phrases of low EMS standards.” – Wes Ogilvie

Go read the post HERE.

So many folks in EMS focus on patient care, training or licensing.

So many folks in EMS focus on QI, vehicle design or discipline.

But how many are looking around their immediate area:

The driver’s seat.

Chances are the biggest positive impact you can make as a Paramedic is to mentor or inspire another provider, starting with the grunt taking you from patient to patient.  That person we often think of as simply a means to an end was once us.

Think back to the moment you realized you wanted to be a Paramedic.  It wasn’t watching Emergency! or Mother, Juggs & Speed, there was someone in the right hand seat that made you want to be better.

I’ve told you about my inspiration to do better, but instead of thinking back to your own glory day of inspiration, Wes reminds us that we have an obligation to inspire others.

If you don’t someone else will and there’s a possibility that person believes in EMS Anchor myths of kidnapping, starting large IVs on combative patients, ridiculing the under-served and wants nothing more than to pass along their bad habits.

Perhaps one of the problems in EMS is that we’ve forgotten to inspire while spending too much time looking backwards?

Not a medic? What about inspiring a young beat cop or firefighter instead of just hoping they run into the right folks in the future?

We are the future we’ve been waiting for.

-HM

Community Paramedicine doesn’t belong in EMS

Community Paramedicine, or what some would rather call Integrated Healthcare, is a fantastic concept.  Why not take basic medicine and evaluation skills to the patient recently recovering from a procedure instead of making them visit the MD’s office?

Why not follow up with Mrs Jones on how her medications are doing?

Why not have a Paramedic check in on Mr Thompson and his blood sugar levels?

My first paying gig in EMS was for a system that did just this.  We visited our list of clients based on the schedule and checked their blood sugar, blood pressure, medications and checked the fridge for food.  I hated it.  I hated it because it wasn’t what 18 year old me wanted to be doing.  I didn’t see the value in the program until I was about to finish my employ there and noticed we never ran a 911 call on any of our home visit regulars.  We weren’t providing Emergency Medical Services (EMS), we were doing something completely different.  Call it by any name you like, but don’t call it EMS.

Today I’m a huge supporter of decreasing the demand on 911 by focusing on reducing the number of people who call.  One of the proven tools used to combat 911 calls is making people healthier before they need 911.

Community Paramedicine is just the thing each and every community in America can use to reach out to a niche that needs to be addressed.

When I was in England all those years ago Paramedics with only 1 year experience were out on their own making recommendations, referrals and taking people directly to what they needed, not just a 2 person cot van to an ER (Or AE for those who favourite that term.)

The concepts have been proven over and over again and some systems are even carving out revenue streams to make it profitable or, at least, not at cost.

I applaud their efforts and if the opportunity ever comes along for me to get involved…

…I’ll pass.

In my opinion Community Paramedicine is too important to be trusted to the 911 crowd.  We need folks more interested in sitting and talking than squeezing a few home visits in between calls for service.  Some systems have adapted schedules and providers to respond only on the Community cars and that’s great, but a greater separation is needed.

Yes, I’m advocating splitting EMS even further than we are now.  A split that will allow this new sub specialty to thrive.

Community Paramedicine needs to be a specialty, a half brother, not a spin off hoping to get picked up for a second season.

It will not succeed if it is tied to the chaos that is 911 for profit and must succeed if 911 for profit has any chance of surviving another 10 years.  We’re approaching a cross roads to possibly finally squeeze our little patient care machine into the main stream of medical professionals.  Do we want to squander that opportunity by having Community Paramedicine as a side project of EMS or as a full fledged community service independent of the lights and sirens?

I know 18 year old me had a different reason for having this opinion, but the opinion remains:  911 and community care shouldn’t mix.  They should each focus on their strengths and excel at the service they provide the community instead of stretching us so thin only our merit badge classes hold us above water.

The 3 Real Reasons EMS isn’t Ready to Refuse Care

Sean Eddy from Medic Madness, and fellow Uniform Stories contributor, has a new post up titled “3 Reasons EMS isn’t ready to refuse care.”

Go have a read, then come back for my comments.

Well, you’re either ready to storm Sean’s gates with your sharpened pitchfork or ready to defend him from what I’ve got to say on the subject.

Sean brings up some great issues that have been bouncing around EMS circles for decades.  With the recent introduction of Community Paramedicine and the concept that we can, gasp, leave people at home in certain situations, EMS providers are looking to build on the outdated “Transport them all and let the ED sort it out” mentality of the 1970s.

Sean’s 3 reasons are certainly worth discussion but I think he was very careful to sidestep the elephants in the room.

l’ll address Sean’s reasons 1 by 1, then give you the 3 real reasons we’re not refusing care.

Sean’s Reason #1 We’re not trained for it.

I’ll agree with Sean here on a handful of cases.  I would argue that leaving a hyperventilating patient at home simply telling them “It’s just anxiety” without addressing the symptoms we aren’t ready for, nor should we be ready for.  However, this skips over the other 99% of our calls.  When a person has an injury or illness (or nothing assessed) and asks us “Do you think I need to go?” we should not be bullied into transporting by a management who only gets paid if the wheels turn and a nurse signs the chart.  Honestly answering that patient’s question and giving them the information they need to seek the care the need should be job #1.  We are trained for that.

Sean’s Reason #2 No Legal Protection

This is one of the urban legends of respond not convey, that somehow, somewhere, we’re simply going to pull up, roll down the window, tell the person to just go to the ED and drive away.

There is not added liability in obtaining a refusal for a stubbed toe after telling the person that they don’t need to go in an ambulance than there is in obtaining a refusal after telling them they should.  Zero.  It is simply changing the amount of accurate information available for the patient to make an informed decision regarding their are.

Sean’s Reason #3 – We aren’t designed to be the end point in care

Sean brings up an interesting point that we are not meant to be the definitive treatment for patients, that that is only done by MDs.  Then I would call into question each and every refusal of service ever collected in the history of EMS.  We should be, and currently are, the end point when necessary.  Again, we’re not talking about chest pain, stroke, abdominal pain of unknown etiology, those patients are all obviously in need of evaluation and we are not their end point.  For the finger smashed in the door of the car we are also not the end point in care but that is no reason to REQUIRE ambulance transport to an Emergency Department.  I can’t fix the finger, surely we can agree, but there is nothing I can do beyond splinting and supportive care.  In addition now we’re sending an urgent care level patient to an ED, grossly over triaging “just to be safe.”

 

Sean is a friend and don’t take my comments about his concepts as disagreeing with him.  He and I have discussed this topic repeatedly, as many of us have, and it is of course far easier to comment on ideas than come up with them.  But we all need to be realistic about the REAL reasons EMS is not ready to refuse care.

Real Reason #1 – There’s no profit in it

Oh, there’s reduced cost in it, but no profit.  Spending 30 minutes on scene for a refusal is not nearly as lucrative as a 30 minute transport.  There is no increased liability, no increased training required, no fancy advanced classes or licenses, we just have to do what is right and allow the patient to make good decisions and seek out appropriate care in the community.  But so long as insurance only covers transport, it won’t happen.

Real Reason #2 – We don’t understand liability

Leaving Erma Fishbiscuit at home isn’t the problem, it’s transporting her for no reason to an ED for no reason “Just to be safe” that is the liability.  We remove needed resources from the system to satisfy decades of urban legends from the anchors about so and so who broke the rules and left someone home to die, but never about how no rigs were available for Mr Johnson yesterday.  If the rules were broken and something bad happened, it isn’t the rule that is the problem.  We shouldn’t be scared about letting patients make decisions.  We inform, they decide, we do our best to get them what they need, we complete a chart and go away.  Just like we do now.

Real Reason #3 – Adrenaline and turnover

No EMT wants to sit in Erma’s house for 30 minutes making sure she knows where her medications are and when they should be taken.  No Paramedic wants to sit with Mr and Mrs Jones and explain how their daughter’s nebulizer works.  They’d rather hit the lights and sirens, break hearts, save lives and take’em all and let the Doctor’s sort them out, after all “We don’t diagnose.”

 

EMS is having a real problem taking itself seriously recently.  I applaud Sean for making his list and putting it out in the public.  We have a decision to make in the very near future and that relates to the future of EMS and I see it will divide us even further and I think it’s a good thing.

Yes, I said dividing EMS is a good thing.  More to follow.

-HM

A House Divided…

Not a political post, just thinking about firing up the EMS 2.0 machine again here in my home system.  This speech keeps coming to mind.

An excerpt from Senator Lincoln’s Speech to the Illinois Legislature in 1853:

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.”

 

A Comment on Typical Idiot EMS Managers by Burned Out Medic.

Burned Out Medic had a post up recently I thought I commented on, but apparently you have to hit ‘submit.’  Who knew?

The post is in reference to a Call the Cops story about an ambulance crew being reprimanded for going 90 MPH even though the vehicles govern out at 70.

Have a read and come back for my comments.

Well let me start by saying I agree 100% and that I’m going to have to disagree 100%.  Typical EMS Manager, right?

 

The trouble with the situation mentioned in the Call the Cops story is that there are no facts.  There does not appear to be any investigation policy or framework, nor is there any documentation confirming the speed of the vehicle, the exact location, time of day, etc.

Most field crews believe EMS Managers are sitting in the office hoping beyond hope that someone calls in a complaint so we can puff up our chests and assert the hair’s width of authority we have.

Let me confirm that that is not the case at all.  In between phone calls from hospitals, regulators, our own managers, chart reading, report filing and other mundane tasks involved with making sure you can still practice, citizen complaints are taken very seriously.

I used to get weekly calls from a fellow who swore up one side and down the other that a crew raped him*.  Same crew, every week. Seriously.  For over a year we were on casual conversation terms each time he called.  Heck one week he didn’t call and I was actually worried.  But the first time he called it was taken very, very seriously.

The conversation was recorded, run data was pulled, AVL signals gathered and only after confirming details from the caller was I able to conclude his complaint to be without merit.

The crew accused wasn’t even working that night but had transported this individual a number of times.  That same crew had recently been accused of other things by other members of the public and medical system.  Each time he called I’d pull the AVL map as we spoke to confirm the crew in question was in the clear.

You see my friends, complaints do not happen in a vacuum.  They are most often the result of someone getting a bill for service or just plain not liking EMS in general.

The example given by Call the Cops that Burned-Out references is hilarious because it can be easily disputed:

  • Obtain complaint in writing or verbally recorded.
  • Pull the unit history for the ambulance in question.
  • Pull AVL data for location.
  • Access maintenance data to ensure governing device installed and properly working.
  • Access previous violations for pattern behavior.

That’ll take maybe an hour.  The thing most field crews don’t realize is that good people can still do bad things.  If you’re a 5 star crew and get a complaint I handle it the same as a complaint about the crew that was in my office yesterday for what ever other frivolous thing the rumor mill says they were in for.

The tough call comes when the AVL data shows the unit traveling on the roadway in question, at the time in question, at the speed limit, but 3 hours earlier data show the vehicle traveling above the speed of the governor.

Now what do you do?  The crew has been proven to not be guilty of the accused offense, yet we now have data that show their defense is faulty.

It’s easy to sit in the rig and gossip about how the managers are out to get you after what happened to so-and-so but just remember it’s a lot of work to get you in trouble, and you know how we pencil pushing EMS Managers hate work.

If your managers are so bad at what they do, promote.  Nothing in EMS is easy, even sitting in a little room with a tie on reading charts and going to meetings.  The ultimate answer to bad leadership is to become a leader yourself.  Show me you can do it better than they can and your service will be the better for it and, as a result, your patients will have a better experience, which is all that matters in the end.

 

EDIT – *Forgot to mention, not the real reason he called, but just as unusual and hard to believe.

Now at Uniform Stories

Your pal Happy is proud to be included as a guest blogger over at Uniform Stories.

Uniform Stories allows you to upload a video about your experiences in uniform, no matter the type, and you know I’ll tell you that is a powerful medium.

Head on over and take a look at the site and watch a few videos and I invite you to upload your own.

If your uniform could tell 1 story, what would it be?

See you there.

A Big Move

I’ve been cryptic about things recently, and for good reason.

Those of you following on Facebook noted last week that I was preparing for an interview, but never explained for what.  Yesterday I got word that it went well.

Starting July 1st I will be assuming the role of EMS Director for the newly formed Detroit Unified Healthcare Service which will rebuild Detroit’s EMS service from the ground up.

Plagued with difficulties for decades the DUHS will erase the problems of the past and build on an EMS 2.0 platform of prevention, home visits and has already connected with a vast network of secondary transport facilities.

Upgrading salary, training and service levels are just the beginning!

More details are to follow as the official announcement will be made on Friday at a joint press conference, we’re still working on getting the house sold here, didn’t expect this to happen so quickly.

This is an exciting time to say the least and I’ll miss the SFFD but this is an opportunity not to be missed!

 

Interested in coming along?  We’re hiring! Detroit United Healthcare Service info

Mixed Signals at Youth Detention – NOMA

I was asked to accompany my supervisor to the local Youth Detention Center where they’re running a couple weeks of a modified almost career day program. They’re bringing in trades and professions from TV makeup to EMS and showing the kids that they don’t have to give up the hopes of moving on with their lives when they get out.

I think it’s a great idea since simply putting someone in a room and waving a finger at them seldom produces change in behavior. My 7 year old could have told you that.

We had a presentation prepared about the history of EMS, local and State requirements to achieve licensure and what to expect on the job. We had pros, cons, salary expectations and, most importantly to them, what your background needed to look like.
They were very interested in learning about the sliding scale of background infractions that will still yield a job taking care of people on their worst days. This many years without a conviction in this, that many years without 2 or more convictions in that…they were riveted and you could see them doing the math in their heads. “If I get out this year and don’t re-offend I can be an EMT in 4 years!”

The Company Man in me was on board with the message of inspiring these youths to look beyond their transgressions and wipe the slate clean. An opportunity awaits them to possibly get a job with me helping people.
Everyone deserves a second chance in life, especially the young.

Not on my ambulance (NOMA).

That’s what the EMS 2.0 inside me said. During the presentation I did my best to explain to the class just how easy it is to get an EMT cert.
“Only 120 hours of class needed guys!”
“2 days a week for 1 semester at the community college and you’ll be able to take the test. Pass it and you can apply to work on an ambulance!”

The conflict within me was well hidden I assure you.

While I agree that these kids need this message of how easy it is to get into EMS, I don’t want it to be so easy.

Taking care of people takes blind trust on their part assuming that the agency responding has done something to make sure you are a trustworthy person and are trained to take care of them. We extend our message of EMS with the promise of lights and sirens, driving on the wrong side of the road and try to temper that with tales of 911 abuse, vomit, urine, blood and guts. All this group seemed to be interested in was why my stripes were silver and my boss’s gold.

They’re kids.

We need to take this message to EVERY school and get kids excited about helping people and being selfish about it.

Yes, I said selfish. I don’t do this job to help people, I do it because the feeling I get from helping people is addictive and better than anything I know. I help people because if I don’t I don’t feel right. Trying to convey that message to a group of young men already 2 strikes down and out of their league doesn’t translate as well as one may hope.

One of them asked how we handle dealing with sick people and I told them it’s easy. It’s taking care of the people you shouldn’t want to that is hard.

I told the story of the child abuser that was confronted by a neighbor. The child had been transported by another crew and I was called to deal with the abuser and his mild injuries. That man got the exact same high level of assessment, care and transport as my mother would have received. Not because it was the law, or policy or the right thing to do, but that’s what I was there for. My sole purpose was to help those who asked and I did it with a smile on my face. Maybe not the biggest smile, but I helped and I felt better.

I wanted to share more about the realities of EMS with those kids but we ran out of time.

We didn’t talk about burnout, divorce, poor dietary habits, the sedentary lifestyle of 12 hour system status cars or the fact that in most communities you’ll need a second job to make ends meet.

In the end I don’t think it will matter.

The Company Man in me will apply whatever standards my employer sets forth when considering candidates, regardless of personal belief or Professional discretion. But if I was the boss, even if you carried the same license and all other things being equal, I’m hiring the kid that WANTS to be here, not one who took the easy road and wants to give it a shot because it took less hours than welding at the local college to get qualified.

Am I wrong? Maybe, but at least then I’ll know and can move forward.

What are your thoughts on reaching out to troubled youth about jobs in EMS?

Hate Firefighters that complain about EMS? You might be one. I was.

It is no surprise that anyone working in the Fire Department who hates EMS is in for a generic cialis rough career.

I have met many a “Basic for Life” who groans everytime the bells ring and it is not a fire.  Some even groan at building alarms.

I was talking with a colleague recently and we stumbled into the problem most in EMS struggle with and one I built this platform on:  BS calls.

You might be thinking “Justin, calling them BS calls isn’t respectful.  It’s that kind of attitude that encourages less than Professional actions by our low information voter EMS types.”

But they are BS calls.  The scraped knees, the MVCs without injury some passerby called in, the headaches after slurpees and stomach aches after a seafood dinner, all BS calls.

And if you agree then you still have a lot to learn about modern, and I’ll argue future, EMS.

If you argue that you only exist for emergencies and the other calls waste your time, your argument is no different than the firefighter claiming they are there to fight fire, not wipe asses.

So let’s rename BS calls as Basic Service Calls.  Not EMT Basic, but Basic care.

You exist to assess.  So many in EMS list their abilities to treat as their claim to fame when we have all known for a long time that treatments are useless without a complete assessment.  That headache, stomach ache, every call you go on deserves a complete assessment to determine possible solutions to you patient’s chief complaint.  If your main reason for assessing is simply whether this will be a transport or not, perhaps we should get you an application at Dairy Queen.  I can say that, I used to work there.  If all you d is check your boxes on the ePCR and exclude the patient from your box of tricks are you even addressing their concerns?

Every single call you are sent to is someone who didn’t know what else to do.  What an amazing opportunity to help them.  Not with a 12-lead most times, or albuterol even, but listening to their concerns and reacting to them.

If the guy on 3rd street keeps calling every time he runs out of meds, can we possibly help him figure out why instead of getting upset he called again?  In case you haven’t noticed, getting mad and yelling at him only makes him call and complain in between calls for 911 to refill his meds.

Getting upset isn’t working.  So instead, get involved.  It will take just as long to complete a transport or refusal helping him or ignoring him so why not make the time you have with him useful?

You don’t need Advanced Practice, Community Paramedicine or (I can’ believe I’m about to type this) Integrated Mobile Healthcare (ewww) to make a positive impact while still acting within your scope of practice.  There is no law that keeps you from being a patient advocate.  Since he called you for medical care you are now able to access his medical record (as much as he gives permission for) to determine what may be the trouble.  Call his Doctor’s office and mention to the clerk who answers that you are on a 911 call and need to speak to his Doctor.  Dude will be on the phone in a heartbeat.  If the van service from the managed care service is always late or keeps skipping the house, make a call.  If the home care nurse isn’t doing what they are supposed to be doing, ask for their agency’s contact information and follow up with your concerns.

All of this can be done in the same time frame as your frustrated conversation with your regular that will end the same way it always does unless you change your perception.

He IS the reason you are here.

Like the Fire Service before us we are doing a great job at preventing major medical issues and because everyone seems so intent on getting to any scene as fast as possible, we see many conditions far earlier than before, meaning they’re not as dire as our 20 year veteran colleagues remember.

We are the safety net these people need when their insurance company fails them.  We are the number they call when Medicare can’t cover everything.  We can make a difference if we try and we don’t even need to try very hard.

These calls will frustrate you.  They frustrated me so much I wrote about them.  As I did I realized I was getting frustrated for no reason at all and that I alone had the power to help these people.  That’s where EMS 2.0 became a reality for me.  That’s when Chronicles jumped off and my perceptions changed forever.  Had I kept stewing in my frustrations there is no telling where my sanity would be.

If you disagree with me and believe the first word in EMS is more important than the last word in EMS give up ever becoming a Professional.  You’ll burn out in a few years and I hope you don’t hurt anyone between now and then.

It’s time to take the extra step so many think is not their job, not their responsibility or not in their power:  Help people.

 

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