As EMTs, we are often the first people to respond to patients in need. But all too often, our EMS training alerts us to additional needs beyond the initial reason we responded to the call. The question is, what is the correct way to proceed in these situations? When do we help?
The EMT Code of Ethics and Oath presents the guiding principles that all EMTs pledge to follow when we are on-call and when we are off-duty. Included in the code of ethics, among other promises, are the following standards:
Additionally, the EMT Oath states, “I shall also share my medical knowledge with those who may benefit from what I have learned.”
It is our duty to promote health and work with healthcare professionals to act in the best interest of our patients. When our situational awareness training and medical knowledge alert us to something that could be harmful to a patient’s health, it is our obligation to help.
This includes being vigilant and looking for signs of abuse, violence, human trafficking, or other potentially dangerous situations and contacting the appropriate authorities. Know what to look for and how to safely report your findings. Remember to never place yourself or your partner in a dangerous situation. For more information about how to build situational awareness and identify abuse, human trafficking, or other dangerous situations for yourself and your patient, explore our online courses.
You may have heard before that “EMTs don’t diagnose,” but this statement couldn’t be more wrong. When we are called to the scene of an incident, we have been told some sort of reason that we are needed. This information is often minimal. It may be that someone has hit their head, someone stopped breathing, or someone fell and hurt their leg. When we arrive at the scene, we have to assess the situation and, in effect, diagnose the issue so that we know what protocols to follow in delivering treatment.
In the course of treatment, it is common to realize that there is another issue. This issue may be linked to the primary reason for the call, but it could also be unrelated.
Once all immediate threats to life have been addressed, the primary assessment, you can begin a secondary assessment to look for further issues. Ask questions to help you understand your patient’s medical background, personal history, and current situations that could affect their health.
If, during the course of your secondary assessment, you find indications of abuse, human trafficking, neglect, or another medical issue, share your findings with the appropriate people. Information like a suspected allergy, pre-existing condition, or an underlying health problem like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or asthma could all be important information for the doctors who will treat your patient once you deliver them. Reaching out to the appropriate authorities about signs or indicators of possible violence or abuse can help your patient receive the long-term care and support they need.
Be thoughtful about how and to whom you share your findings. Your job is not to deliver a final diagnosis but rather to alert other medical professionals so that they can pursue further clarity and facts. In some situations, it may be best to only relay these thoughts to the nurses or doctors to whom you have delivered your patient or to the police or government authorities. You don’t want to put yourself in danger or cause unnecessary fear, panic, or harm.
And remember, you aren’t alone in your assessments. Trust your partner and team members, and ask their opinions.
Medical knowledge is growing and best practices are changing at an exponential rate. In order to best identify possible complications your patient may be experiencing, you need to be diligent in maintaining your continuing education.
At CareerCert, we understand that staying on top of best practices is vital for your patients and your career, which is why we provide EMS CE solutions that fit around your schedule. To learn about opportunities to earn free CE credits on a monthly basis, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, or explore our online training options. Whether you need an entire online EMT refresher that fulfills national requirements or a few last distributive hours, we have flexible, quality training that will help you sharpen your skills and improve patient outcomes.