By: Kate Pula, Training Officer, 2015
The keys for patient assessment are SAMPLE (Signs and symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Pertinent past history, Last oral intake, and Events leading to injury or illness) and OPQRST (Onset, Provokes, Quality, Radiation, Severity, and Time). If all of these questions are asked or observed, you’ll get all the important information you need to treat your patient. But once you have this information, you need to make sure you interpret it and use it correctly. For example, with signs and symptoms, you aren’t just finding the chief complaint but also trying to see the whole picture. The patient could have multiple illnesses or injuries, and everything needs to be taken into account. The allergies and medications a patient is taking can complicate injuries or illnesses. For example, a drug that can thin the blood can complicate a patient’s injury. Past medical history can be incredibly important, especially in a situation where the patient has an unknown problem. Past experiences or family history can also give clues to the problem.
OPQRST also helps EMTs look at the bigger picture. You find out when the pain actually started and when it got bad enough to call EMS. The type of pain can change depending on what the actual underlying problem is. It’s also important to pay attention to any changes in the pain while on scene. The key to remember is to treat the patient not the symptoms; you have to see the big picture.