(In between having fun that is)
By Michael Morse
Being first in on most medical emergencies is routine for most engine companies. In the past, the job was easy: stop the bleeding, put collars on motor vehicle collision victims, always give oxygen, and wait for the paramedics. It was nice having cookie cutter treatment plans; it took the guesswork out of patient care and kept well-meaning but out-of-date firefighters out of trouble on EMS calls. Yet heaven forbid the EMS elite leave well enough alone! Times have changed and so has patient care. Now that most firefighters have advanced EMS training, tunnel vision is no longer acceptable. We are expected to perform and stay up to date with not only with regional and state EMS protocols but with ever-changing trends in EMS as well.
We have no problem finding motivation to learn about the latest firefighting techniques. We know that there a very different ways to “put the wet stuff on the red stuff,” and are willing to spend countless hours in the drill yard perfecting that goal. The fact that once we get going, fire training is kind of fun helps considerably. But what about EMS training? I think we would often agree that there seems to be nothing fun about it after we finish basic level certifications.
One method I have found to stay current with my EMS skills is painless. By setting aside 15-30 minutes three or four times a week reading EMS and firefighting publications, I stay fresh and don’t have to get dirty or spend money doing so. Google is a great tool when used for things other than searching for car crashes, great escapes, hockey fights, and big fires.
Always Administer Oxygen?
Googling “supplemental oxygen in EMS,” I came up with enough material to get me through the time I had allotted for my own personal EMS refresher program.
The Holy Grail of engine company EMS, supplemental oxygen, has been obsolete for years now, but remains one of the first instincts firefighters consider for chest pain, asthma, trauma, and just about everything else. The consensus is that a little oxygen never hurt anybody. Probably not so:
We all know that our protocols sometimes need updating. Researching current trends in EMS never hurts, especially when confronted with a 90-year-old arthritic patient involved in a fender bender.
I never liked backboards, and took far too many chances by not immobilizing patients before it became the newest standard of care. A quick Google search gave me plenty to read to justify my street-savvy decisions.
Tourniquets Save Lives
If I had not bothered to spend a few minutes researching bleeding control, I would never have learned that tourniquets, once blamed for loss of limbs but more recently vindicated on the battlefield, are now standard operating procedure in the civilian world. Not only did I learn a lot about controlling gross hemorrhage, I read some fascinating battlefield stories from the soldiers who were there. Win-win.
Ideas for topics you could research are endless. Every firefighter these days has a “device” that they use daily. If I could get back the time I wasted on my Android, I would probably be Providence (RI) Fire Department EMS chief instead of Engine Company EMS column writer, but I have no regrets. Those little devices we carry around can be a lot of fun, but they are also valuable tools. When used constructively, even for just a few minutes, they can make us better firefighters, better EMTs and people whose skills and careers are advancing, rather than remaining static.
Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department (PFD), an author, and a popular columnist. He served on PFD’s Engine Co. 2., Engine Co. 9, and Ladder Co. 4 for 10 years prior to becoming an EMT-C on Rescue Co 1 and Captain of Rescue Co. 5.