Just as EMS education has evolved with clinical care in regards to cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, spinal immobilization, and oxygen usage it also needs to evolve in how we interact with each other and the communities we serve.
During our careers in EMS we hear two words repeatedly: Caring and Compassion. These words are often held aloft as the defining affective characteristics that every EMT and Paramedic needs to have in order to be successful for their patients. There is a third characteristic that often gets glossed over, sometimes put under the Caring moniker, but is equally important. Ironically it also begins with a “C“…
Far too often the combination of the hero syndrome coupled with the false imbuement of authority leads to the acute lack of Consideration we see in EMS today. It is important to note that while we are expected to display Caring and Compassion to our patients and their families, it is Consideration that should be shown to a much broader audience that includes the public at large, other health care providers, and one another.
An Example of Inconsideration
The way they park their vehicle.
Ambulances are not immune to this type of behavior. Go to any emergency department and you will see examples of ambulances parked correctly and considerately of others (public, hospital staff, and other ambulances) but are also likely to come across one or two that are not parked that way. Here is another illustrated and annotated example:
Here is an ambulance parked in the middle of a one-way street obstructing the roadway.
Some common excuses you will hear to try and justify this type of behavior will be:
- They were on an emergency call – Yes, true it is an emergency call, but the lack of both a fire engine and a police car indicate that this is a low priority medical and no reason the obstruct a roadway
- They weren’t harming anyone – Yes, they were not actively harming anyone, however they were actively obstructing a roadway unnecessarily. It is important to understand that not only can other cars not pass, but neither can police cars or other ambulances IF there were a call further up the street or the next block over that was a greater priority. This is not being inconsiderate of just the public and community, but also of your fellow first responders
- It’s for the safety of the crew and the patient – I would whole-heartedly disagree. If you were truly worried about your safety, then you would not put your vehicle in the direct line of proverbial fire and make it such an easy target to strike from oncoming vehicles
- It’s the law – Actually, most laws do not mandate that you be inconsiderate of others when operating your vehicle. For that matter, more often than not, the vehicle operator is provided the ability to do things other vehicles are not permitted to do BUT the decision to do such things is left up to the vehicle operator who will STILL bear full liability for anything that occurs while exercising those privileges.
As an example, the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law 1104 reads:
(b) The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle may:
1. Stop, stand or park irrespective of the provisions of this title;
2. Proceed past a steady red signal, a flashing red signal or a stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation;
3. Exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he does not endanger life or property;
4. Disregard regulations governing directions of movement or turning in specified directions.
I added the emphasis on the word may. While the law permits you to do so, it does NOT mandate that you do so. Now, it MAY be your Agencies policy for you to do so. If that is the case it just clearly proves my point about the lack of Consideration being an EMS cultural issue, and it is important to understand that policy is NOT the same as a law. Just as HIPAA does not apply to the public at large neither do your agency’s policies and any policy that encourages inconsiderate behavior should be thoroughly re-evaluated and changed to reflect respect for others as the agency would want to be respected
Inside EMS Podcast: How to deal with unprofessionalism in EMS
The truth is that not everyone in EMS lacks Consideration. It’s entirely possible that our partners may be very considerate, but they are having a bad day and that was one of the things that has gone out the proverbial window as they cope with other things. Sometimes all they need is to be made aware of their Inconsiderate actions in order for their behavior to change, and as good partners we need to be willing to point those out to them.
Kelly Grayson and Chris Cebollero touched on dealing with unprofessionalism across the cab from you in their Inside EMS Podcast. Click here for the full episode but here is a quick clip on dealing with your partner in that situation:
Tips To Improve Consideration
So how does one become more Considerate of others? Try these tips out…
- Think about things from someone else’s perspective – How does what you are about to do or say effect other people? How will they view it and what will they take away from it? While the things we do and say may be with the best of intentions, that is not the way they are always received. Try and see it from the other person’s perspective and, if you are so bold, perhaps take it a step further and actually ask them how they see it. Be ready to hear things you may not like, but value it as someone else’s honest perspective regardless of whether you agree or not
- Think about your surroundings – We all consider scene safety for ourselves, but what about others? Is what we are doing ensuring that other people will be safe or are we creating a hazard for others? For example, when parking the ambulance ask yourself about what your positioning will do for other ambulances, emergency vehicles, delivery trucks, other vehicles, and pedestrians. Just because you can block a roadway or pedestrian crosswalk and park at an odd angle doesn’t mean you should
- Do things for people when they need your help whether they ask for it or not – The simplest things such as holding doors open, grabbing coffee for someone at the station or your partner, making room for someone to sit, or simply smiling can make the world of difference to them and as an added bonus it will make your life richer as well