By: David March, Training Officer, 2014
An often forgotten aspect of note taking during EMS calls is the important role that time plays. Anyone with a fair amount of field experience is familiar with the difference that five minutes can make on a patient’s condition. Patients that were having some difficulty catching their breath can slowly sink into unconsciousness as their body shuts down. Intoxicated patients who had been having difficulty sitting up might find their legs and start wandering around the room. Time is critical.
Yet, many EMTs note changes in patient’s condition with little consideration for the timeline. Of course it’s most important to note that the patient started off unable to determine where they were, and later worked up to a full understanding of their situation, but the time it took them to do so is also relevant. The time that vitals are taken is always recorded to help monitor trends, but more subjective findings such as patient responsiveness can be just as important to predict what is happening with the patient.
Noting the time throughout the call can help you, and those who will read your report further down the line, make sense of the story of the patient’s night. Since you have to wear a watch, might as well make use of it.