With more than 30 years of EMS experience under my belt, I ve identified many things that bother me. A few things make me absolutely crazy. Improper use of the English language is one. Now, I know these phrases are uttered by well-meaning personnel, but somebody has to correct the error of their ways. Let me digress:
Radio: [Electronic siren wailing] This is Medic 51. We re en route with a 50-year-old male.
Me: I hope you re en route because you sure as hell have the siren on.
Radio: [Siren now in yelp mode] The patient was playing softball and ran into the fence at a full run.
Me: Did he spill his beer?
Radio: [Siren in high-low mode] Sorry, Doc, I couldn t hear that.
Me: Never mind Wasn t important anyway
Radio: [Siren now sounding like a Wildebeest in labor] The patient has sustained a traumatic injury to his leg.
Me: Of course. How could he have sustained his injury without trauma?
Radio: [Siren in space invaders mode] Sorry, Doc, I couldn t hear that.
Me: Never mind Wasn t important anyway.
Radio: [Siren in obscene mode] The patient is alert and orientated times three.
Me: Oh, so he s attended orientation?
Radio: [Continuous air horns drown out siren] What s that, Doc? Yeah, he s orientated times three.
Me: [Thinking about the beach] Go ahead, Medic 51.
Radio: [Screeching tires drown out siren]. Well, Doc, his pupils are pearl.
Me: [Thinking about fishing] You say he has pearls in his eyes. Don t you mean he has artificial eyes?
Radio: [Back up alarm drowns out siren]: What, Doc? Artificial eyes? No! You know, his pupils are pearl.
Me: [Thinking about car keys] OK, I got you.
Radio: [Siren still blaring]: We re at your door, Doc.
Me: [Looking for car across the street] Greaaaat.
Just a typical day. So where do some of these phrases and misused words come from? Do we think we sound more intelligent by using two words when one is adequate? For example, I ve thought and thought and can figure no way for a patient to have an injury without trauma. So it s absolutely redundant to use the phrase traumatic injury.
Likewise, at least here in the South, EMS personnel seem to think that when their patient is oriented to person, place and time, they are orientated. According to Webster s, the word orientated means that the person has attended orientation or is facing a certain direction (such as being orientated toward the East). Thus, the correct word for us to use is oriented.
Another thing that makes me crazy is calling the bird when requesting a helicopter. Although a bird and a helicopter both fly, the similarities end there. I would love to be at a scene when an EMS provider sticks his head out of a crushed Geo Metro and yells, Get me a bird, because I d love to dress as a pirate, place two birds on my shoulders, walk up to the Geo Metro and say, Arrrgh, me matey. Would you be wantin a cockatoo or a macaw? Or, perhaps, a buzzard (or vulture for you non-Texans) descends from the sky and perches on the hood of the car, looking the patient in the eye licking his lips. (And there s the other bird that you often see when you accidentally cut somebody off at the corner. But we won t go there.)
It gets worse. You hear, He has a history of a swollen prostrate instead of swollen prostate. Or you hear, She has a history of old timer s disease instead of Alzheimer s disease.
We need to end this abuse of the language by having each new EMS student sign a contract the first day of class promising not to embarrass the entire profession by using words that have meaning only to them.
Hold it. There s the radio again:
Radio: [Siren wailing, loud yelling] This is Medic 21, I mean Medic 51, and we re en route, Code 3, with a dude who s been shot.
Me: How far away are you?
Radio: [Siren wailing, loud prayers heard]: About a foot and a half.
Me: Not from the patient, from the hospital.
Radio: [No siren, but cursing and praying heard] Oh, sorry, Doc. About two minutes. We were going to call the bird, but changed our mind when we saw how bad this dude was.
Me: OK, fair enough. Where was he shot?
Radio: [Siren on high-low and sound of honking horn] Hang on a minute, Doc. ... He was shot ... he was shot ... . Just a minute doc. Yeah, that s right, he was shot in the kitchen.