….and not the kind you are imagining.
If you don’t read the Motor Cop Blog, you should. MC has a great column called “Ask MC” where he takes questions from readers about anything related to law enforcement. I can appreciate this column as I have been the recipient of his advice on more than one occasion. Thanks again, MC!
Anyway, on to the story.
MC had a reader submit a question about family members following ambulances at a dangerously close distance during emergency transports. Rather than try and re-create the reader’s scenario, I will paste the question here:
I recently assisted in transporting a baby to a city hospital after he was brought to our ER after an arrest. It was a roll of the dice as to whether he’d make it there, we had 4 adults in the back keeping eyes on him and praying. Stressful, to say the least. Before we left the family was told NOT to try to keep up with the ambulance, and the last thing anyone needed was a car wreck on the way. Every family has been told this, on every transport I’ve been on, and to date none have listened. This morning we were trying to part traffic in the city during rush hour, and the family car was on our butts all the way. About 1 foot off the bumper, in spite of getting floodlighted from the ambulance and the doc making “Get away!!” gestures from the back window.
Do you have any suggestions…our hospital frowns on firing warning shots out the back window. What could be more convincing, and within the law as far as instructions before the transport, and what are officers able to do to help. Obviously we went through several towns fairly fast, and a police chase after a speeding ambulance is darned disruptive and dangerous, so I was at a loss at the time.
MC had a great response to the reader’s question. Do yourself a favor and read the article to see his response before continuing on.
He really hit the nail on the head when he said that you can’t control other people’s actions. This is especially true during a state of panic. What you CAN control, is your actions.
All of us in EMS have experienced situations like this, probably on a fairly regular basis. I personally have been rear-ended twice by following family during a transport. On both occasions, we had to stop and wait for another ambulance to show up and continue patient care and transport. It’s a bad situation for everybody.
Now, back to controlling the things that we can control, like our actions. MC pointed out that we should communicate with the family and explain what’s going on and explain why following the ambulance is a bad idea. I can’t agree more. Keeping family in the loop is key. I have made a practice of taking down family member’s phone numbers before leaving, so that I can call them once we arrive at the ER to either update them on the situation, or allow the hospital staff to contact them. I have found that taking the time to make sure they know what’s going on goes a long way towards bringing them down off their state of panic.
There will be occasions where nothing you say or do works. A wise man once said that “you can’t fix stupid”. Well, Mr. White couldn’t be more correct, and in these cases you just have to do what’s right for yourself and the patient. On some occasions I have elected to discontinue a code-3 (lights and sirens) transport and continue in “cold” due to a vehicle following too close. Every time I have done this the family got upset and complained, and management has always backed me. You have a responsibility to protect yourself and those around you. If a following vehicle is compromising your safety during a code-3 transport, then you have to do whatever it takes to be safe.
One of the best quotes of MC’s response:
One of the great things about an ambulance is the medic in the back. While you are headed to the hospital, you are receiving the appropriate medical care you need. There is less need to drive with imprudence…at least theoretically.
Took the words right out of my mouth. We are no longer “gurney jockeys”. The scoop-and-run mentality is slowly dying and we are starting to be looked at more like a mobile ER, as we should. There are only a few scenarios where rapid transport is warranted, much less beneficial. I’m sure a bunch of people disagree with me, but trust me when I say that we will never advance in our field if we keep hauling ass to the ER’s instead of actually treating our patients.
Now back to the topic on hand……(see EMS and ADD)
The bottom line is, don’t compromise your safety. Driving an ambulance is a lot like riding a motorcycle. Everybody is either aiming for you or ignoring you. As professional drivers, we have to do our jobs and everyone else’s as well. Be aware of your surroundings. Try to avoid putting yourself in these positions by communicating with the family. If all else fails, drive slow.