….if every Sp02 monitor disappeared off the face of the earth.
Nurse: “What’s the patient’s O2 Sat?”
Medic: “We brought him in BLS, didn’t use the Spo2″
Nurse: “Why didn’t you use the Sp02?”
Medic: “The patient doesn’t present with any respiratory distress. His skin signs are pink, warm and dry, his lung sounds are clear and he speaks in full sentences without difficulty”
Nurse: “But why didn’t you get an O2 Sat?”
I am of the strong opinion that we could easily do our job without ever touching an Sp02 monitor. One of the beauties of EMS is that we still do physical assessments on our patients and don’t rely on numbers on a screen to tell us if our patient’s are sick. Well, at least most of us don’t.
Technology is great, but it shouldn’t replace a physical assessment. We should be able to tell that our patient is having difficulty breathing long before the Sp02 monitor ever leaves the bag. Tools like the Sp02 monitor are supposed to help establish a baseline, monitor effects of treatment and tell us what we already know. And for that purpose it works great.
It absolutely drives me nuts when I see people get all worked up for the sole purpose that a patient’s Sp02 reading is low. If the patient’s presentation doesn’t match the reading, then guess what? The machine is wrong. Most people wouldn’t start pacing someone, or even administer any medications to someone with a heart rate of 40 if they were asymptomatic. So what is it about the Sp02 reading that gets people all worked up?
Unfortunately on the flip side of this scenario, I often see people downplay someone’s condition because the Sp02 reading is within normal limits. It all goes back to treating the patient and not the numbers. I can’t help but to look down and shake my head when I see a crew bring in a patient with labored breathing on room air, because “she’s sating 98%”. One of my “favorites” is when I get a response like this: “Why is he on a non-rebreather? He’s sating 99%”.
If you want to treat numbers, then go be a mathematician.