“I Don’t Like To Take Riders”

Recently, I was checking out some EMS related blogs while enjoying my morning coffee when I came upon a post at Captain Chair Confessions called “I don’t like to take riders.”  In the post CCC talks about the fact that he feels that passengers are a “distraction” to him in the pack and to his partner who would be driving.

In a comment that follows, he outlines that his service has a policy that states only a parent of a child under ten can ride in back and all others go up front.  Beyond family members his service has a policy that all other riders are taken “at the crew’s discretion.”  This sounds very familiar to the policy that was in place at my previous employer.

I was fortunate that through my seven years as a supervisor I did not field all that many complaints about my team working in the field.  Sure, you would get the occasional nursing home RN who felt that an EMT was rude to them, or someone who complained about being cut off by a speeding ambulance, but beyond that, I took about a dozen calls from people who wanted to go to the hospital with their loved one, and were denied by the ambulance crew.

When I approached the crews and asked them what happened, most of them were able to give me a valid reason why they would not allow someone else to come to the hospital with them but there were a few crews that stated “well, it’s up to our discretion.”  And when I asked them what they meant by that, they replied “we don’t take riders.”  I explained to each of those people that this was not discretion.  I would stress them that each individual situation needed to be evaluated and we needed to do what was in the patient’s best interest, and sometimes not having to sit in the hospital alone is in their best interest.

I would always do the best I could to back my crews 100% on situations like this if they gave me the ammo to do so.  Calls that involved violence from assault right up to a stabbing or shooting were always transported without a rider.  If a person was intoxicated and the crew did not want to take them as a rider, then that would be acceptable too.  If they presented a risk to the crew’s safety by being irate or a true distraction, they could be left behind.  If a crew had a reason, and they shared that reason, it was very easy to come to their defense.  If they stated “we don’t take riders” it was not quite as easy.

Alternatively, explain to the person who is going to be riding along exactly how it will all work.  “You can come along, but you are going to have to ride up front in the passenger seat.  As of right now, we are not going to use our lights and sirens to get to the hospital.  Maybe it would be better to bring a car along so you and the patient can get home when they’re done.”  That is a much more open minded and informative answer than a blanket “no, we don’t take riders.”

I was spending some time with some of my new coworkers the other night and one of them made a comment that, while stating the obvious, is frequently overlooked: “much of what we do is customer service related.”  CCC presents an interesting scenario with his call, and did what he felt was best to maintain his patient’s privacy which in hindsight was beneficial to his patient but not every call needs this level of protection.  Much like Tom Bouthillet I agree that the back of the ambulance is not always the right place for that rider but putting them up front especially if the patient would like them to come along to the hospital should be something that each of us tries to accommodate.

If there is no threat to the safety and well-being of everyone in the ambulance think about taking that rider along.  You never know their presence might benefit the patient in the long run.