The Podcast

Podcast Episode 17: The Medicast

Posted by on Sep 9, 2014

We took the week off last weeks or Labor Day and this week the podcast is back with a short interview that I did on Jamie Davis’ The Medicast where we talk about the show and what it is all about.  Regular shows will be back next week!  Enjoy! To download the show in MP3 format, follow this link!  Otherwise check the show out below:     Share...

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For Leadership

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016

As the days tick past American Medical Response draws closer to going “live” with their new public/private partnership with the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department.  After a story posted earlier this week about a traumatic cardiac arrest that sat for close to 30 minutes without a transporting unit being available, it is clear that the time is now for something to change in the nation’s capital. The coming months are going to be very telling for the future of EMS not only in DC but throughout the country.  From a personal stand point, I am very excited to see in what direction everything goes.  There is a lot of influence in the AMR DC operation from my old stomping grounds in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Their Operations Manager, a guy by the name of Mark Nuessle, was one of my first supervisors when I hit the streets back in 2000.  About a half a dozen people who are being brought in from around the country to help with the hiring and training process of close to 200 new employees have some...

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For the Field

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016

My name is Scott, and I’ve made mistakes. There. I said it. The medical world is one where we strive for perfection. That seems to be multiplied ten fold in the world of EMS. We expect ourselves to be perfect. We expect ourselves to be better than nurses and sometimes doctors as we stand back and watch residents and attendings make mistakes that we feel we are immune to making. We can point them out or cite the newest evidence but for some reason when it comes to our own industry, we are prohibited from pointing out those same mistakes. Some think that in the absence of protocol or knowledge, a good ol’ diesel bolus is the answer and should continue to be the answer when reeducation and more training would be far more appropriate. “Do no harm” is significantly different from “no harm was done” and we need to realize that. Just because nothing bad happened does not mean that something good happened. The key to success in this field is learning from the things that don’t quite go as...

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Lessons to Learn

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  -Benjamin Franklin Throughout my career, I have been to maybe eight or nine critical incident stress debriefings.  I attended my first one when I was 17 years old after caring for a man who self-immolated as a means to take his own life.  Without getting into the details of this confidential event, the outcome for my family, who was on the call with me, and I was a long standing bond with the dispatchers in attendance.  About once a month for many years following, we used to take coffee and donuts down to the dispatch center to catch up with our new friends. I have always been a person who encouraged everyone involved to attend CISM’s, and I think I have spoken about that here before.  To those who have said, “I am not going to get anything out of it” I am quick to remind them that it’s not all about them.  Sometimes the best thing that we can do is offer something in our own personal experiences to someone...

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Recent Posts

A Challenge for the Industry

Tucked away in the back of the EMS Today Exhibit Hall was a board surrounded by a number of Post-Its bearing the question “What is the BIGGEST CHALLENGE in the EMS Industry?”  There were a number of responses on the board including head scratchers such as the one that stated standards should be lowered for volunteer providers, and no that was not my “trolling” submission.  Mine, unfortunately, did not make the final copy of the board, but I think that it needs to be delved into so what better place to do that than my little corner of the internet? My response was a simple one but an important one for all of us to remember.  My Post-It read “Stop being afraid to fail.”  We are so dead set on our own success that we are content with staying in a safe area of development in our industry.  Why try something new?  What if it does not work?  What if I do it wrong?  What if I cannot do it well?  What if somebody dies?  The answer to all of these questions are simple.  Respectively they read like this: our industry will not progress; dust off and try something else; practice more you’ll get it; again, practice; and finally, people die.  We cannot prevent that. When looking at some of the most successful people and industries one will find that many, many people have more misses than hits.  Take me, for example.  My first choice of where to spend my career, which I thought at one point that I would never leave, was not the right fit for me.  I’ve tried other blog ventures, and had two or three that never got off the ground before I even started writing on the pages that you are reading today.  I’ve invested time in countless projects that just did not work out.  All together though, the things that I put my heart into that have worked are in my eyes pretty successful. Even great inventors such as Thomas Edison, who held over 1,000  patents for his inventions had more than his fair share of failures.  Throughout his lifetime, he tried to invent devices that could project...

The Myth of Culture

Over the past couple of years I have read a few articles about the importance of living in the community that one serves.  I have seen articles championing volunteer organizations because “people like being cared for by their neighbors” or implying that those who do care for their neighbors would do a better job because of their proximity both physically and emotionally to a patient. Other articles about fire based systems for example talk about how being part of a community can allow one to know the back roads and short cuts that might shave precious seconds off of response times thus saving countless lives.  Further reading will reveal criticism of private EMS departments that come in from outside of the area and know little about the people that they are caring for.  Some feel that not living in the area that one practices medicine in can result in them caring that much less about the people that they are providing medical care for. Based on some personal experiences that I have had, I fail to see any of these as being an absolute that one should lead an argument with.  My first EMS position was in the town that I grew up in.  Island Heights, New Jersey is small, populated by maybe 1,200 people during the summer months.  It was impossible for me to go into a house on a call and not either know the patient or one of their relatives.  From there I moved some 250 miles away for college, and spent the first twelve years of my career in Springfield, Massachusetts.  I was a transplant, and as a white kid from suburbia, I did not fit the cultural makeup of the city that I worked in at all.  Neither did the vast majority of my coworkers.  Much like the majority of the workforce in EMS, we were Caucasian and majority male. Although I was not from the area I was able to learn the streets, and learn a lot about the culture as well.  Working in Springfield pushed me to improve the quality of the Spanish that I spoke, and learn a little bit about the cultures that I was...

The Shot Across the Bow at DCFEMS

The recent resignation of Dr. Juliette Saussy the medical director of Washington DC Fire and EMS has been a boulder dropped in the lake of EMS that is sending ripples far and wide.  After her announcement and the letter accompanying her resignation was made public it seem that just about everyone has had a look at what she had to say, and what it means to specific services as well as our industry.  Not wanting to feel left out, I felt that it was my turn to do the same. There was not much in Dr. Saussy’s letter that surprised me.  Many of the issues that she brought to light were ones that have been there for years, and have been known about for years but commonly were just brushed under the rug.  To expand on that a bit, a lot of the problems pointed out in the letter closely resemble problems pointed out to me by friends working in a number of different surfaces around the country. You cannot blame Dr. Saussy for the decision that she made.  As medical director, the ultimate responsibility of who does and does not practice within her system rests on her.  She is a woman with a long standing reputation as an innovative, aggressive, and involved medical director.  Her capture by DCFEMS was one that should have been seen as a huge step forward for the department.  The only question that fire department leadership should have been asking following the hiring should have been “Tell us what to do next, doctor.”  Instead, Dr. Saussy was met with resistance and the usual “that will not work here.”  She was forced to go head to head with a union that has done so much to hold back its department, not to mention its “sister” union representing the single role providers serving Washington, DC. And then there is the proposed plan involving American Medical Response.  First, let me start out by saying that while some might not like AMR or their business practices, they really are one heck of a company.  I worked with them for 12 years, and although some of the leadership in the division that I worked...

Hey, Remember Me?

Well, as the title of this post suggests, I am back. I know, I know it has been quite some time since I have posted anything here, and it has been a lot longer since I have posted consistently but with EMS Today coming up this week, I decided to reopen the door to blogging and start writing again. For the last six months I have been focusing on a lot of aspects of both my personal and professional life. I have been teaching more, developing classes more, and just generally enjoying life outside of the blogging world. After writing for five and a half years, I guess that I just needed a break. I have spent the last couple of months writing for Dragons Speak, a blog about Drexel University’s basketball team in Philadelphia. As a present to my dad, a Drexel grad, I got us season tickets. Sports writing has been a good outlet, and has helped me break down some of the more serious setbacks that I have had with writer’s block over the last couple of months. I am sure that most of the other bloggers who are still out there and active will agree that writing is a labor of love. Unlike some, I don’t make any money from doing this. This website is completely self-funded and maintained. I write because I enjoy it, and I write because I am passionate about my chosen career. My main motivation for coming back and writing, however, is two-fold. Moving past my love for it and my field, I am not at all happy with the direction that the online community of bloggers has taken. While there are still the likes of Noonan, Grayson, and Schorr gracing this series of tubes that we call the internet with their thoughts and feelings on this field, there are others who have become more frequent contributors who leave me scratching my head. But enough of the negativity. Let’s get back to writing, right? Lately, EMS Compass has taken up a lot of my time, and with that coming to a close I plan on having more time to spend with a cup of coffee and...

Band-Aids and Broken Systems in DC

The city council in Washington DC passed an ordinance this past week to contract with private ambulance companies to provide additional ambulance coverage to handle an overflow of lower priority calls.  The response from the paramedic’s union is the usual rhetoric one would expect: “If we don’t show up people are going to die!”  Wrong, folks.  If nobody shows up that might happen.  Does it have to be a DCFEMS ambulance?  Absolutely not. For the life of me I cannot figure out how a system the of Washington, DC’s can operate without a safety net.  How is there nobody there to pick up the overflow?   In Springfield, Massachusetts for example, a city of 150,000 people we had a relief valve for when the volume outpaced the resources.  Other companies signed agreements and participated in the 911 system when we needed them to and guess what?  Because of the structure of our system, and the allowance that we could select who was part of the system in my seven years in management I never heard a complaint about the level of care that was provided in any instances of backup response.  Sure, you ran into the occasional response time issue however much like the proposed DCFEMS changes those units were commonly handling lower priority calls.  It is much easier to get a truck who is making a turnaround at a hospital to pick up a CPR call or a shooting than it is the toe pain or another suicidal person. The key to a partnership like this is structure and oversight.  While some might complain that the hastily made plan by the city council might lack just that, but creating and instituting these measures should not be difficult.  For example, a great place to start is to set standards for who you will let in on the action.  Is it smart to let every mom and pop shop descend into the neighborhoods of DC to provide emergency care?  Absolutely not, but there are plenty of services in the heavily saturated DC area who could more than handle the volume. And let’s not lose sight of the fact that although the patch on one shoulder...