In his book, People Care, Thom Dick shows us that while it is imperative to know and perform all the medical procedures well, it is also important to treat patients with kindness and respect. He points out that most people don’t remember much about medical procedures performed, but they do remember how they were treated. Also, he demonstrates that how patients are treated plays a big role in whether or not they decide to pursue malpractice litigation against healthcare providers. If patients are handled with gentleness and respect, they are more likely to forgive mistakes.
He begins his book by giving us three major mistakes that the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has made since its founding. The first mistake was to support hiring people that were inclined to hate their jobs. These people were thrill seekers and just wanted to be heroes. They only cared primarily about themselves and not enough about the patient. In order to enjoy and do well in the EMS profession, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) need to naturally like people and have a love for helping them. The second mistake was that the EMTs were taught to expect the wrong things.
They were led to believe that every call would be exciting. In reality, most calls are routine and are not exciting at all. The last mistake was that many EMS administrators treated their workers with disrespect. They applied manufacturing measures to EMS quality which made the EMTs feel less valuable. Thom Dick wants us to remember that EMS is not manufacturing; it is the most important people business ever. Next, Mr. Dick stresses that the EMT’s personal safety always comes first. He believes that they need to develop safety habits if they are to stay alive and healthy.
One of the gifts that EMS gives back is situational awareness. EMTs will be put into many dangerous situations and will need situational awareness in order to stay out of harm’s way. Mr. Dick also believes that another way to stay safe is to never drive the ambulance too fast or in any other irresponsible way. Thom Dick emphasizes the need to respect others no matter how strange or different they may seem to us. EMTs meet a wide variety of people out in the field and must learn to accept them as they are. It is not an EMT’s job to judge other peoples’ personalities.
Their job is to provide the best care that they are able to give. Mr. Dick feels that it is important to take the time to understand how patients are feeling. Many of the people that EMTs will meet are scared and need someone to help them feel better. One of the most important things an EMT can do for them is to simply smile. The smile needs to be genuine or the patient will feel like it is all an act and the EMT doesn’t really care. He next expresses the need to develop professional etiquette toward everyone that they meet.
Respect and kindness should be shown to every person that EMTs come upon in the field. This includes other medical professionals, first responders, other drivers, co-workers, and patients. EMTs should listen to them and do all they can to cooperate. This will be easiest if they naturally like people and have no problem respecting others. Additionally, Mr. Dick feels that professional etiquette includes maintaining a professional appearance. If EMTs are poorly groomed or go around with an unkempt uniform, it reflects badly on themselves, their colleagues, and their profession.
In Mr. Dick’s opinion, most of the so called “system abusers” are simply people who are overwhelmed in life or just lonely. They become desperate for someone to talk to and they know EMTs will always respond and most likely listen to them. They deserve sympathy however and not distain. Many of these people are homeless, having no one in their lives to talk to or listen to them. The author wants us to remember that, with a couple of bad breaks, we could end up homeless too and that these people should be treated with the same level of respect as everyone else.
According to Mr. Dick, another group that deserves respect is the patient’s family members. If a patient is in crisis, the family is most likely in crisis as well. They can be very helpful in such things as giving the patient’s medical history, medications, and other useful information to an EMT. The family can also become formidable adversaries if they feel that the patient is being mistreated. EMTs should always listen to them and show that they really do care about their family member. Furthermore, Mr.
Dick believes that being able to give comfort to the family is a required skill for all healthcare providers to have. He further states that the elderly are probably the biggest group of people that EMTs will treat in their careers. The author gives several examples in his book of how the elderly can be different from other patients and how certain things can affect them more. Mr. Dick also wants EMTs to understand how the elderly feel about the current condition of their lives.
They have gone from being independent in all areas in their lives to needing elp getting dressed and cleaning themselves. They are people just like everyone else and deserve to be treated as such. Mr. Dick next warns us that EMTs will come in contact with many violent people and that they need to do all they can to stay out of danger. When EMTs come upon these people, they must do their best to keep control of their emotions and not retaliate in any way. Violent patients should still be treated with respect and still need to be cared for. Additionally, Mr. Dick informs us that EMTs may be put in a situation where they will have to “take-down” and restrain the patient.
He believes that if they must do this, proper restraints should be used and they should still listen to the patient. If the patient starts to complain of breathing difficulty, the EMT must do what he can to help them. Thom Dick and his co-authors obviously put a lot of thought into writing this book. It is full of practical ways to treat our patients with respect and how to stay safe while in the field. I strongly believe that all EMS professionals and students should read this book to gain understanding of some of the challenges and dangers they will face in this critical and demanding profession.