Alanis Morissette’s 1996 hit song “Ironic” noted ironies in many parts of life, such as a “free ride when you’ve already paid” or “10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.” EMS is filled with similar ironies—for example, the EMT who tells a chronic diabetic patient they need to eat better before going out with their partner for a double bacon cheeseburger, large fries, and extralarge Coke, or the 275-pound, 40-BMI paramedic who tells a heart patient they need to exercise more and take care of themselves. Are we role models, or are we ironic?
This has proven important in the era of COVID-19. Clearly, we want to treat our patients well and slow COVID’s spread—but are we doing our full part to do so? Are we setting good examples as role models for the public?
Some questions to consider:
Are you and your partner wearing masks at all times, even when not on calls and especially in the cab of your vehicle when you’re less than six feet apart?
Are you and all members of your agency wearing masks and physically distancing when in your station or quarters?
Do you give a mask to every patient during every encounter?
Do you have a regular cleaning and disinfection schedule that’s followed for your vehicle and quarters?
Are your vehicle, stretcher, and gear disinfected and cleaned after each call?
Are high-contact surfaces like door handles, radios, computer keyboards, cell phones, bag handles, refrigerator and sink handles, and kitchen counters cleaned several times a day?
Do you have signage on your vehicles and in your station encouraging hand hygiene and social distancing?
Do you make sure any photos or social media depicting your agency have everyone wearing proper PPE and maintaining distancing?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, consider working with your officers or supervisory team to employ these practices. There is a great deal of merit to them for both us and the public.
It is challenging to ask the public to follow masking and distancing regulations when they don’t see EMS (and other public safety and hospital personnel) modelling them. Newer members of your agency follow the senior members—are they setting a good example?
Also, American EMS has received a fair number of accolades over the last six months as “healthcare heroes.” If we want the sympathy and respect of the public, we need to model the behavior we wish to see.
Most important, these practices will keep us healthy, safe, and able to help others. They also hopefully mean we won’t take added exposure home to our families and loved ones. If we get sick, who is left to help?
Professional EMS should model behavior, not irony.
Barry Bachenheimer, EdD, EMT/FF, is a frequent contributor to EMS World.