Communication is such a huge part of this job.  We need to be able to communicate with our patients and get information out of them, we need to be able to speak on a radio (which is sometimes easier said than done) and we need to be able to translate what our patients say into medical jargen so the doctors and nurses we give report to fully understand what they are going to be dealing with.  In addition to all of this, we need to be able to communicate with our partners as well.

Jamie was my third partner in my career, and she was the one that I worked with the longest.  The two of us were partners for close to two years, working evenings and weekend overnights.  We had some great times, and did some really good calls over the years.  Our styles were completely different.  I was more aggressive medically, where she was quite a bit more on the conservative side, but because of that I learned a lot about holding back, and what to treat and not to treat.

We would seem to commonly encounter a problem in the street though: while our silent communication skills, we were not always able to read each other’s minds.  It was on a slow shift that we solved this problem.  Jamie and I decided that we were going to create our own language, one that was spoken by touching different parts of our face to let the other person know what was needed in more of a silent fashion.

For example: there is a crying woman sitting on a bed, not talking with her boyfriend/husband looming over her.  Jamie might tap her temple with her index finger which, according to our silent language dictionary, says “let’s clear the room so I can talk to her alone.”  I’d say to the husband, “Sir, can we go take a look at her medicine?”  or “Can you hold the door for me while I get the stretcher in?”

At its peak, we had just about fifteen different silent phrases we’d “speak” to each other on calls, covering everything from “This is ridiculous, why are we here?”  to “I’d feel more comfortable if you tech’d this one” and even “Holy crap, this is bad, we need to get going now.”  It gave us a way to speak to each other silently without alerting bystanders or the patient themselves, and since Jamie and I spent 40+ hours together in a truck, it gave us a way to develop our little language.

At the start of each week, we’d go through our list, and make sure we each knew what each of the signs was, and then we would decide if we needed to add one or two based on our experiences in the prior week.  Once we hit around fifteen, we felt that we had our sweet spot, and there was not really a need to add anything else.

Do you have a regular partner?  Give this a shot, keep it simple at first, and hopefully you will find it as useful as we did.

  • Chris

    Wow, I love this idea. I’m no longer an EMT, but I can see where this would be really helpful.