Good Medics Don’t Run

I saw a visitor to the Paramedic Blog who searched “EMT running” for whatever reason. I was struck that an EMT would or ever should be running, other than for physical exercise.

I often see images of healthcare professionals rushing and bustling about in the media. Footage of a Medic running up to aid someone is not hard to find.  I think running in EMS is downright dangerous. When pressure mounts and events demand an instant response, I suggest you slow the heck down.

If you ever see me run at the scene of an EMS call, it is because someone has a gun drawn. Moving fast makes your heart beat fast. When your heart beats fast you don’t think so good.

Adrenaline is something you want to avoid when walking a tightrope. I remember the video on 60 Minutes of climber Alex Honnold whistling as he free-climbs a mountain without ropes, hundreds of feet in the air. He said, “If I get an adrenaline rush, something has gone horribly wrong.”  The same thing is true for doing good EMS.

Adrenaline is the enemy; it slows the intellect and gives you a bad case of tunnel vision. One trick I can share I learned years ago from a great ER doctor. I noticed that whenever he worked a code, he always talked with almost an exaggerated politeness to the entire team.

Everything he said was like “Ma’am, would you please hand me the IV catheter”, or “Sir, would you please stop compressions for a second?”. It struck me as a bit odd, because he was normally so casual with everyone. But I remembered that I liked it and his codes always ran like a Swiss watch.

So one day I asked him about it and he explained, “When everyone is under pressure, a very polite tone calms everybody down” “It helps everything to go right the first time.”  I tried it out myself and found out that he was absolutely correct.

Slow down and be very calm and deliberate in your actions and communications. Be very patient and very polite. Everything gets easier and your team gets into the right groove.

It magically helps make chaos more manageable. The curious thing I learned is that the more deliberate your actions, the faster everything gets done. Don’t ever run from the ambulance to the patients’ side.

It will wind up slowing you down or getting someone hurt. It will reduce your ability to fully absorb and process the scene visually. It will prevent you from noticing peripheral risks to safety or mechanisms of injury. Last, it will actually slow you down in the long run. A jitters-induced IV start failure or missed intubation, equals lost time that matters.

When folks gesture or scream for you to hurry up when they see you walking, just smile and keep moving with deliberation. Keep smiling and nodding politely while you keep thanking everyone. That way the patient will get better and safer care more quickly and you get to go home afterwards.

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About Dan White

I'm a retired Paramedic and EMS Instructor with 35 years EMS and emergency medical product experience. I love canoes, cars and EMS. I have written a lot about EMS Technology on the Paramedic Blog, the Insights on Innovation column for EMS1.com, on AmbulanceWorld.com and Multibriefs.com. I can be reached directly at 573-240-0002.
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4 Responses to Good Medics Don’t Run

  1. Evan Feuer says:

    You are 120% right. There are plenty of departments that require their medics to run to the trucks when dispatched……what a bad idea. That causes sympathetic nervous stimulation which in turns makes your adrenal grans release Epi into your system. Your HR increases, your respiratory rate increases, your BP increases, and most importantly you lose some of your peripheral vision and the ability for rational thought. That’s great when a bear attacks you and all you need to do is focus on the bear and running. When you are tying to use fine motor skills to treat a patient and maintain a broad view of the scene you are just unable to do that when Adrenalin is pumping through your system.
    EMS professionals should be trained to recognize when they are having sympathetic nervous system (SNS)stimulation and how to control it. Read ON COMBAT by Lt. Cl. David Grossman and his findings on SNS stimulation and combat training directly apply to EMS.
    On May 17th I am speaking at the EMS Web Summit http://www.emswebsummit.com on this exact topic. Dan, thanks for sharing.

    Evan Feuer
    Distance CME
    http://www.distanceCME.com

  2. Rudy Lopez says:

    You would never cut it as a firefighter…

    • Dan White says:

      Probably not. I am morally opposed to running period, but in particular I have noticed firemen entering burning buildings while cockroaches run out. I have no wish to be outsmarted by a cockroach. But that doesn’t change my opinion. The last time I saw an over eager fireman run into danger, it was right before I worked a code on him. Walk don’t run, into danger. You will live longer and a few seconds never make a difference. Just like saving two minutes by running hot to the hospital never makes a difference.

  3. Doug Dodson says:

    I vehemently disagree. This only applies if your ambulance is very close to the patient. Time is of the essence, and if your response time is either 30 seconds or three to four minutes based on whether you are running or not, permanent brain damage can result.

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