A Reminder About Being a Professional

A Reminder About Being a Professional

Oct 30, 2014

This morning I saw a video come across pretty much all of the major EMS related news sites about a fire crew from Glendale, Arizona who were filmed while restraining a patient.  I fired up the video and sat there watching saying to myself over and over “it looks fine to me. . . still looks fine. . .” and then one of the firefighters opened his mouth, and lost his cool.  He informed the patient that he was “dead meat” and began swearing at the patient and the family.  Have a look at the video, but be aware that there is potentially offensive language used in it.  It might not be suitable for work.

The backstory on the call is sketchy: a patient who had a “seizure” after overdosing on medications who first punched his father and then assaulted the crew.  During their restraint of the patient, the stretcher ended up on its side, and at least two firefighters ended up on top of the patient.  Operating in a vacuum, and putting the video on mute, the crew did a pretty good job retraining the patient.  He was being held down by an adequate number of people leaving other responders to watch the scene, and monitor bystanders.  If two people can effectively hold a patient down, then there is no reason to have five people on top of him, so kudos for that.  Keeping with the desired online theme of not armchair quarterbacking this call, I feel that this is a good time to touch on a couple of different points that we can remind ourselves of after watching this video.

  1. In the world of power stretchers, we no longer have to lift it to its highest level right off the bat to prevent repetitive lifts. Keep your stretcher at a manageable level especially when you have a patient on it who might become combative.  If you start off at a level higher than your patient, then they will be easier to control, and while you might put yourself at risk for strikes to some areas that men specifically might be more protective of, you will prevent yourself from being struck in the face.
  2. Stay calm. Restrain the patient, get control of them where you are, and get them to the ambulance.  Furthermore, much like this crew did, do your best to keep control of the entire scene and not just of the patient.  Now, that said, we need to keep control of ourselves as well.  Remember that running your mouth, cursing at the patient and bystanders does not just look bad but it also runs the risk of inciting the crowd and further escalating the scene.
  3. Based on everything that I have seen on this video, I am going to make a dangerous assumption that the most vocal of the crew was the ranking member on scene. I am making this assumption based on two things: first the statement of “you don’t ever *expletive* touch me or my *expletive* crew “ and secondly, based on the fact that no one told him to lock it up.  If this is your scene, if you are in command of it, maintain control of it.  Those bars on your shoulder or that gold badge mean that you are the one who sets the example for the junior folks.  If you lose your cool sometimes they will think its okay to lose theirs as well.
  4. Finally, this is yet another reminder that video cameras are everywhere. Every single smartphone has one, and based on what has happened throughout the country, people are perfectly comfortable using them anytime they see fit.  When situations like this come up, be sure to remind yourself that somebody might be videotaping what is going on.

In closing, I feel that it is important to point out that I am not immune from anything that I have said above.  I have been on scene before where I have said some things that I have regretted, I full admit that.  I am a bigger guy, but I am a teddy bear.  I have certainly written checks with my mouth that my body certainly could not cash.  A lot of it was driven from stress of the job, or the day that I was having, just to name a few factors, however that does not excuse my behavior, and does not excuse the behavior by the firefighter in this video.

Again, I am not trying to armchair quarterback anything that happened on this call.  We have no idea what went down before the camera was turned on.  We need to remember though that sometimes videos like this one can be full of lessons and reminders.  Did the crew do a good job restraining this patient?  It looks like it, but without the full story I cannot be sure.  Did one of their members do a bad job by running his mouth when he probably should not have?  That I am pretty sure of.  Remember, maintain your cool.  You are the professional.