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Swing in the Right Direction on Your New Ambulance Designs


I had the privilege of participating in a panel presentation at this year’s Pinnacle EMS Leadership & Management conference with Jerry Socha, marketing director for Ferno, and Scott Cravens, publisher of EMS World. Our topic was “Where EMS Could Be by the Year 2020.”

When Jerry, Scott and I met to discuss the key messages we would present at this fast-paced session, we agreed that what Ferno’s staff observed during its national research on delivery of care in an ambulance had to be a central part of our discussion.

During our planning meeting, Jerry reenacted how crews being interviewed and filmed moved around unrestrained to retrieve items located in awkward and distant locations from their working position. He sat in a chair and demonstrated how personnel reached, climbed and “floor surfed” around their patient compartments—not by desire, but by need—to retrieve important equipment and complete required care.

He showed how they had to hurdle ECG cables and O2 tubing to get to areas, retrieve BP cuffs and IV start items, and position unsecured kits and monitors in unsafe areas—like the floor or the squad bench—so they could obtain items, see the screen and operate monitor controls.

He said the people illustrating these precarious actions looked like “monkeys in a cardboard box.” That statement etched a strong image in my mind and caused me to reflect on how often throughout my career I held onto the overhead “grab” rail in moving ambulances. I must’ve looked like a monkey or trapeze artist to the patient secured in the stretcher below me.

I asked Jerry to repeat his “performance” to the managers attending our Pinnacle session to illustrate just how dangerously crews were swinging and maneuvering around their patients. He agreed to do so and, in my opinion, it was a key part of our session. I could see the heads of nearly every attendee nodding in agreement, or shaking back and forth in disbelief as he reviewed the patient compartment movements and actions he observed.

Scott and I then presented ambulance design options we observed in Germany, England, Canada and services throughout the United States where ambulance committees, managers and manufacturers teamed up to redesign their patient compartments. Examples can be seen in a Webcast I presented on ambulance innovations from Europe, available at jems.com or by scanning the QR code below.

As I and other industry leaders have been emphasizing, we have a great opportunity to redesign our patient compartments now that the outdated KKK ambulance specifications are no longer going to dictate box configurations that don’t make sense.

New specifications will no longer force us to have squad benches, deep cabinets or attendant seats that have to be a specific width and depth. This will “open” our options and allow managers, ambulance procurement committees and manufacturers to open up their minds and “think outside the box” to design safer and more functional patient compartments.


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