“EMS #### dispatched for a 42-year-old male with breathing difficulties. Caller stated that the problem began about fifteen minutes ago. The patient is conscious and has no history of cardiac problems.”
Our ambulance rolls up to the house. As soon as my partner stops the vehicle, I dart into the back to grab the bag of supplies and hurry to go inside. Then I freeze.
There are two doors, either of which could be a valid way in.
We waste nearly thirty seconds walking to the one door and trying it before we check the other and find that it’s unlocked. A large dog runs up and barks at us as soon as we step inside and we halt, assessing its body language. After wasting another several seconds figuring out that the dog isn’t likely to attack us, we proceed. We pause at the doorway, uncertain which way to go next. We only move again when we hear the patient’s wife calling out from another room.
If you or a family member has ever had a medical emergency and had to call for an ambulance, you know how terrifying it can be. It feels like everything is slipping out of control. Many people feel completely helpless.
The good news is that there are a few simple steps you can take to help the ambulance crew do their jobs quickly and efficiently. As an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), I’ve seen many emergencies unfold. I can assure you that the assistance and information you tell the EMTs or paramedics can drastically change the outcome of the call.
The best thing is that these steps aren’t complicated or difficult!
First things first, if the 9-1-1 operator gives you instructions that are different from these, follow those directions. These are general guidelines, whereas those instructions are customized for the situation. With that out of the way...
1. Direct the ambulance crew to the correct door
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived on scene and had to figure out which door I was supposed to use. It’s a huge waste of time when I could be right there with the patient, starting the assessment.
If there’s another person nearby, send them out to wait for the ambulance or have them wait with the patient while you wait outside for the ambulance.
If there is no other person nearby, try to at least prop the door open so the ambulance crew knows where to go.
As a side note, if there is a dog inside or anything else that could appear to be a potential danger, be sure to tell the ambulance crew so they know if it’s a threat or not.
2. Be ready to tell a brief history of the injury or illness
It may be a terrifying situation, but being calm enough to tell the ambulance crew what happened could make all the difference. The paramedics and EMTs have very little information when they arrive.
If you can think through the answers to a couple common questions, it can go a long way toward helping us to quickly and accurately figure out what the problem is… or at least what it isn’t!
Here are a couple of questions that the ambulance crew is likely to ask you.
3. Talk while you walk
Many times, the patient’s family member let me in the house and I asked, “What seems to be the problem today?”
The family member then stopped and explained what’s going on. But I don’t need to stop and chat, I need to see the patient! It’s incredibly important to explain what’s happening, but I need to know where to go to find the patient.
So yes, please explain the history of the illness or injury to us—but lead the way while you’re doing so!
Just a few simple steps
If every family knew to take these steps to make a smoother process for the ambulance crew, we could help patients a lot faster.
I completely understand—medical emergencies are terrifying. It can be hard to think clearly and remember all these steps. But keep in mind that even if you can remember only one or two of these points, it will be a huge help!
Remember, even in an emergency, it’s important to make sure everyone has the right information. Family members who take these steps to communicating with the ambulance crew can make a world of difference in giving their loved ones fast, efficient care.
Hi, I'm Rachel. I write adventure stories, but I can't let my characters have all the adventures.