These darn kids and their new-fangled toys!
Call me old fashioned if you want to, but allow me to hike my EMS pants way up higher than my belly button and talk in my Old Grizzled Medic ™ voice for a second here. You see, the kids these days are doing something that just tans my hide. What, with their iPhones, and their iPods, and their iPads, and me with my iGlasses and the Etch-a-Sketch… Confound it! I just don’t understand.
You see, Youngins… back in my day we didn’t have all of these fancy techno-toys that we do now. When it came to running on the ambulance, we made do with what we had and that was the way we liked it. What, with all of the trudging 20 miles to work in the feet of snow uphill with the both ways and whatnot we earned our measly pittances and then trudged back home to our coal-heated shacks to jitterbug away the three hours we got off of work in between our 120 hour shifts. We didn’t need all the pansy stuff you enjoy now.
We did our medical care to the best of our abilities then. We actually had to LIFT our patients into the ambulances on the cot, rather than having the little button lift 700lbs with one finger. We had to look at actual paper maps to find addresses, rather than having the nice lady in the GPS tell us where to go. Heck, we even had to write paper reports on our EMS calls BY HAND USING A PEN.
Paper reports written by hand do one thing and only one thing very well. They suck. They are simply awesome at sucking. They stink on ice. They are medieval torture devices left over from the Monty Python version of the Spanish Inquisition and honestly, the day we switched over to computerized reporting I stabbed a wooden stake through a stack of the dreaded Illinois “Bubble Sheet” EMS report forms. Then I poured gasoline on them, turned around and flicked a match behind my back as I walked away in slow motion without looking back at the explosion and flames. I was wearing sunglasses. It was epic.
Paper reports could be documented at the patient’s side but it just always seemed so darn inconvenient to do so. I did it occasionally during long transports, or when we were running back-to-back calls and I wanted to jot down the high-points of each call on the report form so I could accurately remember them when I got the chance to catch up on my paperwork. It wasn’t uncommon to be “down” four or five reports in those days because we were just so dad-gum busy and the reports took so blasted long to `complete. A stack of those paper reports could give you writers’ cramp for days. Especially the Illinois “Bubble Sheet” forms which I used for years, they were awful monstrosities constructed to worship the demon “ScAnTr0nn” who mandated that little bubbles be filled out perfectly for every name, address, and number you scrawled on the form. Those evil little dots cost me hours of my life, a good amount of my hair, and most of my sanity. After using the awful bubble sheets for years, I switched systems to a place that utilized a somewhat less-evil paper report form, and then back to a place that still used the hated bubble sheets, and then Huzzah! To a place that had computers.
Although I must admit that the hand-strength I developed from writing those awful things made my one-handed beer can crushing trick a hit at parties.
The first report I wrote on a computer was a simple little form written on a then state of the art laptop that weighed approximately 17523lbs. It took forever to load, locked up and lost reports frequently, and was an absolute gift from God. Then, the regional EMS system stepped in and put computers in the EMS report rooms at the hospitals because nobody could ever figure out how to hook up their ambulance laptops to the ancient dot-matrix printers they’d provided for us. Those programs were sweet! I hate switching my hand between a mouse and a keyboard 15 times per second to enter data and the reports we used on the desktop were forms I could simply use the keyboard with the whole time. I actually typed faster than the program could keep up and knew just how many times I had to tab through a list to mark the correct spot on the form without seeing it on the screen. I’d end up having the report typed out a few seconds before the machine caught up and put the words on the screen. It. Was. Awesome.
Still, those reports were something that could only be done away from the patient’s side. We all had note pads to jot down info we wanted to put on the report while we were treating the patient and we took those notes to the computer to enter into the report. Nowadays, them kids with their fancy technology have Toughbooks with touch-screens that they use to write their EMS reports and since their invention, I’ve noticed a trend.
It first started when I noticed my medic protégé Chad had a habit of bringing the toughbook in with him to emergency calls. He’d grab the jump kit, the o2 bag, and the computer. Then, while he was interviewing and assessing the patient, he’d be starting their report.
This dismayed me. Again, call me a crazy old coot and an old-fogey… but I believe that we should not only focus 100% on the events of the call and upon what the patient is telling us, but also that we should give the appearance that we are doing so. You just can’t make me believe that a patient is going to feel that we are listening to that which ails them and are paying attention to their needs when we have our nose in a lap-top. Sure, it may save time on the overall reporting process by allowing the EMT to get an early start on the documentation, but it also ends up taking more time on scene to wait for the computer to enter in information. I also think that it takes away the EMTs ability to fully observe everything that is going on with the patient and the scene around them. It robs one of their situational awareness and of the nuances of the patient assessment.
That, and it’s just plain rude.
It bothers me enough that I launched a whole ridicule-based diatribe against my young protégé and shamed him into no longer bringing the computer into calls with him. I have no problem if he begins the report at the patient’s side during transport as long as he has completed everything that needs to be done and he makes sure to monitor the patient thoroughly. That’s cool, I guess. I am glad that he won’t have to suffer the pain of hand-written EMS reporting. That’s a cross us Grizzled Old Medics™ bore for you with honor.
You’re welcome. Now get off my lawn, and STOP USING THE COMPUTER IN FRONT OF THE PATIENT!!