Why So Serious?

Why So Serious?

Jun 13, 2014

This is going to be my last post on this topic.  I actually intended on posting this about a week ago, but so much has come up over the past week that I kept pushing it back.  In fact, I was going to push it back even more with my Belchertown post that I released yesterday but I figured that this one could not sit any longer.

The events of the “smiling and posing” paramedics in Detroit got me thinking back to a call that I did a few years ago.

We were dispatched to a very well-known diner in the city I was working in at the time.  It was one that I frequented both while at work and occasionally off the job since it was close to my house.  That morning, we were dispatched to the patient having a “diabetic issue.”  The waitress told us that our patient was a regular in their establishment.  He was an elderly male who would walk down every morning for breakfast, and was a known diabetic.  Today, he came in sweaty and disoriented, and just was not himself.

While the patient could follow commands, he was just “off.”  His sugar came back at 30, so we continued where the waitress had led off: we fed him glass after glass of orange juice and some toast as well.  As our treatment of the patient progressed he became more and more alert to the point where he was conversing with and joking with us.  We laughed as he jokingly told us how much he hated needles despite having to check his sugar multiple times a day.

Being a busy Saturday morning, and this being a small diner (I’m sure many of my readers from Springfield know exactly the spot that I am talking about) we were the center of attention.  I’m sure people wondered what was going on as we cracked quiet jokes and then collectively laughed.  While the digital age was just starting to really take off, not many people had cameras, and the voyeuristic society that we live in today was not yet dominating the news and the Interwebs, so no pictures of the laughing paramedics made any waves in the local media, nor should they have.

Relax, everyone. This picture is from a school demonstration.

Relax, everyone. This picture is from a school demonstration.

In my personal opinion, humor absolutely has its place in our profession.  Sometimes, it is part of establishing a rapport with your patient and making them feel more comfortable about what is going on.  Of course, no one should be cracking jokes as they are doing compressions on a cardiac arrest, but it certainly has its place.  I had one partner who cracked many of the same jokes with just about every patient.  I don’t think a call would go by where a patient was not told that it was a “beautiful day out” and that we would “hook them to the trailer hitch and pull them to the hospital.”  Again, I know that everyone from Springfield knows who I am talking about.

Putting a smile on one’s face, being pleasant, and making a patient feel comfortable in a situation that is most likely highly uncomfortable for them is part of general patient care, and should be something in every provider’s toolbox.  People need to understand that, and by people, I mean everyone.  Media included.  What you see from a distance and what you might be able to interpret from a picture, which is a snapshot of a moment in time, may not be what it seems.  This Detroit case is exactly that, and as a result of the overreaction by one reporter, a mountain was made out of a non-existent molehill.

If anyone needs help, advise, or just wants to had a few more patient appropriate jokes to their repertoire, you should check out Chris Kaiser’s page of Patient Friendly Jokes.  Above all else though, always maintain your professionalism, but remember that you need to act human, and treat your patient as a person and not an object.  Part of that is establishing a rapport, putting a smile on your face and when appropriate even being a little funny.

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