Aug 10, 2010

A Black and White or a Grey Affair??

"Everyone thinks when they get out of the academy, everything is black and white.  Well you know what? It isn't.  We live in the gray." Southland. 

There is no amount of training or schooling that will prepare you for the gritty realization of life on the streets. There is the obvious right thing to do and the obvious wrong thing to do, but that only covers the extreme polar ends. What do you do the rest of the time? What would you do in the moment when none of your training and none of your schooling seems applicable? The moment you enter the Grey Zone?

Your presented with a Frequent Flyer drunk, we all know the one, you pull up on scene and know his Name, DOB, SSN, Medical Hx, his wife's name, and their pet cat named Fluffy. He's a block away from his apartment, and is shit faced. He left the bar the block back and has been fighting the ever ominous force known as gravity the entire time. A good Samaritan saw him fall while driving and called 911, though never felt the need to stop and help him.

So Black and White would say a male Intoxicated fallen is a transport to the ER, right? He has consumed alcohol and thus not allowed to refuse medical aide and transport because he has a mind altering drug on board. He is adamant in not going to the ER, and it will be a struggle the entire ride in to keep him relaxed and on your stretcher.

Grey would say that he was heading home, He's a block away, and he needs to sleep this off. Yes he is drunk but if he shows no signs of trauma after a full assessment and is capable of appropriately answering person, place, time and thing than he has the right to refuse Medical aide and transport. You can't take a man against his will and you know his non driving wife is home awaiting his eventual arrival.

So what do we do? In this exact situation it comes down to your way of thinking, which I have done both:

Black&White- You get your Malnourished Morgan Freeman look alike patient and sit him on the stretcher. He banters on about being taken against his will as you put his lap and leg belts on. He emanates enough booze out of his pores for you to inhale a contact buzz. You wrestle to keep him on the stretcher and avoid his misguided attempts at a punch. You use all EMS Mind tricks to distract him and take his attention off his disgruntlement.

Grey- I've signed off my local drunk and given him a courtesy ride home. Walking him to his door and helping him to his front door where he lets himself in. Seeing his worn and weathered wife looking with shame and embarrassment of the spectacle he must have caused from with in the house. We bid our patient ado, and reassure the wife that bringing him home was no problem and it'd save them some money from the ER bill. No doubt leaving the patient to crash on his couch and sleeping off his alcoholic induced life style.

No one prepares us for the split second decisions having to be made on the streets. No one prepares you for the second guessing you'll do the moment the call is over. EMS is Black and White except for when its grey. EMS is truly a conundrum.

No matter your decision, use you clinical assessments and sound medical judgment and stick by it; but always be able to learn from your mistakes.

Be Safe
Ambulance Junkie