What If?: Situational awareness is more than a catch phrase - Administration and Leadership - @ JEMS.com

What If?: Situational awareness is more than a catch phrase


Sirenhead | From the June 2009 Issue | Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dear Sirenhead,

I had a recent call that I_d like your opinion on. I don_t want to say too much about the call due to HIPAA, but here are the basics.

Last month, as I was waiting in our squad for my partner to come out of a store with his lunch, I had a suicidal patient walk up to me with a broken bottle held to his neck. I talked the patient down, got backup and police there, and things ended well.

As soon as the patient was gone, though, I broke down and went over and over in my head what I could or should have done differently. We_re taught from day one about scene safety and not doing anything until the scene is secure, but how do you handle things when the unsafe situation walks right up on you? My boss and others said the only thing they would have done differently was not get in the squad with him. But I justified this in my head.

How can we stay safe in these types of situations? Did I put myself in danger due to lack of experience? I have only two years of experience in the field. Or was I right by judging the patient and going with my gut?

Second Guessing


In 1513, Niccol_ Machiavelli penned the treatiseIl Principe (The Prince). The overall theme is that the end justifies the means, which means if what you did worked out well, then you must have done the right thing. I_ve always enjoyed that book, but I_ve never really agreed with Niccol_.

What you experienced was a lesson. And with only two years on the job, you_ve got a lot more lessons in front of you. But let_s consider what you learned from this incident.

It sounds like you_ve got a good handle on "verbal judo." You_ll definitely use this skill again, so keep working on it. Talking your way out of a fix beats bleeding.

You called for backup. Good job, because there_s nothing like putting the odds in your favor. From watching my buddy Bullethead over the years, I can guarantee that the police come with a lot more than verbal judo. They_re your friends, so keep _em on your side.

You were scared, and that_s a really good thing. I_ve seen a lot of EMTs and medics who thought they were the cat_s meow. They ran their mouths and tried to bully their way through similar situations, but all they ended up with was their tail tied in a knot. Fear is a giftƒtreasure it.

Another good point is that it sounds like you stayed calm. Flipping out never works well. In your case, it would_ve definitely escalated the situation into a whole bucket of ugliness.

And you asked your boss_s opinion later. Getting the perspective of someone who_s been around awhile is usually a smart move. You can take this approach a step further and see what else they know about being streetwise. It_s a great way to learn that getting punched in the mouth does in fact hurt without having to get the fat lip yourself.

Now, it_s time for some Sirenhead butt kickin_, because no one gets off easy here.

I_ve heard a lot of folks over the years claim that they do self-critiques. Some of them probably do a good job, but most of them justify bad decisions to make themselves feel better. That_s not just dumb, it can kill. If you want a real critique, ask someone who probably won_t agree with you. Admitting you made a mistake and learning from it is a lot healthier than pretending you_re always right.

Did you put yourself in danger because of inexperience? Maybe. Or maybe you just weren_t paying attention. Complacency isn_t just an old man_s disease. It_s a trap that makes us think nothing can happen to us. Situational awareness is the word (or words) we need to remember. It_s basically the concept of aligning your perception with reality.

So, prepare for the unexpected by playing "what if." While you_re on the street, imagine possible situations and what your response would be. For example, think to yourself,If this guy on the curb pulls out a knife, I_m gonna ... . Then, run these situations by the old, salty medics and see what they say. Listen with an ear to learn from them, not argue with them. I bet you_ll get some interesting stories.JEMS

Tell Someone Who Cares

Got a question or complaint? Let Sirenhead hear all about it. He_ll answer you with 124 dB of traffic-stopping noise. E-mailsirenhead@elsevier.com,and then brace yourself!

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Administration and Leadership, Provider Wellness and Safety, Jems Siren Head

SirenheadGot a question or complaint? Let Sirenhead hear all about it. He'll answer you with 124 dB of traffic-stopping noise. E-mail sirenhead@elsevier.com, and then brace yourself!


What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox


Fire EMS Blogs

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts


EMS Airway Clinic

Innovation & Advancement

This is the seventh year of the EMS 10 Innovators in EMS program, jointly sponsored by Physio-Control and JEMS.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Press Conference, East Village Explosion and Collapse

Fire is contained to four buildings; 12 people have been injured.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Mayor Adds Ambulances to Peak Demand Period

10 additional ambulances will be on the streets from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Utah Commission Privatizes Ambulance Service

Mayors in Iron County loose management fight.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Ambulance Delay Raises Concerns over Response Times

Officers give up after waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Patient Carry during Snowstorm

Firefighters, medics and officers lend a hand in Halifax.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Terror Attack in Tunisia

19 people killed outside of a museum.
More >