By: Farah Aziz, Training Officer, 2015-2016
One cannot stress the importance of effective communication for the EMT. In the rapid process of stabilizing a patient’s condition before potential transfer to higher-level care, EMTs simultaneously engage in constant verbal and nonverbal exchanges with patients, bystanders and any other officials involved in the call scene. Talk about multitasking! In all seriousness though, effective communication establishes a positive working relationship between patient and health care provider. Reaching a certain comfort level helps build trust that in turn, increases the patient’s receptivity to the EMT’s treatment options and suggestions for transport, raises the likelihood of the patient disclosing important details during history taking that they would otherwise hide and overall helps lower the stress and anxiety that the patient may be experiencing during the call itself.
Just like any other skill sets, there are always ways we could improve how we connect with our patients regardless of how long we spend on scene with them. This ensures that the folks we see feel best taken care of and reassured in the process of being assessed, treated, and potentially transported. Here are a few simple tips and reminders for improving communication:
1. Eye contact – A seemingly small but critical way to immediately make the patient feel prioritized and cared for. This indicates the EMT’s undivided attention and while this does not entail a staring contest, it does mean intermittently looking up from other tasks such as writing PCR notes and taking vitals to ensure this attention is being provided.
2. Restatement- Briefly summarizing and repeating the complaint back to the patient not only helps the EMT process the given information but also allows the patient to clarify the complaint as well as add any missing and pertinent details. This also assures the patient that the EMT was actually listening and not mentally imagining when they can go back to bed after the call.
3. Verbalizing- Simple and consistent explanation of what interventions are being taken, possible explanations for their emergency, reasons for why transport may be recommended and other factual information helps the patient understand what is happening and thereby feel effectively assisted.
Granted, not all patients are the most responsive, cooperative and pleasant to deal with. Regardless, the ways we interact with all of our patients can help the way we gather information, organize our plan of action, and ultimately establish a positive way of showing we care about their health and well-being.
By: Fiona Chen, Captain, 2015-2016
As EMTs we do not provide official diagnoses for our patients; however, it is still important to differentiate between call types. In this spirit, each semester I’ll present a short scenario and either ask you to provide a treatment plan or tell me what’s wrong. So, without further ado…
You are dispatched to a residence hall for a 21-year-old female patient with altered mental status. You arrive on scene to a hoard of concerned bystanders and the patient seated on her bed, leaning against the wall. Bystanders report that the patient complained of a sudden headache followed by weakness on the left side of her body. The patient has signs of dysarthria, or slurred speech, but is responding appropriately to your questions. Other than the headache, your patient says she feels “fine,” and seems oblivious to her other symptoms.
Your patient has no known drug or food allergies and is not currently taking any medications. She has a history of hypertension, but no other pertinent medical or family history. After taking a set of vital signs, you note that her respirations were 14 breaths per minute with bilaterally clear lung sounds; her pulse was 82 beats per minute, strong and regular; her blood pressure was 148/82. Her pupils were equal, round, and reactive to light. Her skin was unremarkable. Following the set of vitals, your patient insists that she does not want to go to the hospital.
After some consideration, you ask the patient to do a few simple actions. Based on her performance, you have her transferred immediately to the hospital. She is taken into emergency surgery.
What was wrong with this patient? Send your thoughts to email@example.com.