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Steve Berry | From the April 2008 Issue | Friday, July 25, 2008

The lone patient had no hospital preference, and the two competing trauma centers were equidistant from each other. The patient_s injuries from the car accident weren_t life threatening, nor did they appear to require specific, definitive care unique to either hospital.

˙Hospital X has fresh doughnuts,Ó a medic whispered to his partner, while applying tape to the patient_s head blocks.

˙Do they have sprinkles on them?Ó his partner asked.

˙Affirmative,Ó he mumbled, while simultaneously tearing the last strand of tape clenched between his teeth.

With the patient_s head securely taped to the backboard, the medic immediately let go of manual head traction and headed toward the diver_s side of the ambulance cab, yelling, ˙Let_s move it guys. We_re going to Hospital X!Ó

The outcome of this call was positiveƒthere were five sprinkled doughnuts in the EMS lounge without any signs of fingerprints, indentations, dehydration or rigor mortisƒand the patient was discharged shortly thereafter with a minor C-spine strain, along with a secondary indirect sequela of acute endematous automobile indemnity tariff maximus (major spike in car-insurance rates).

Hospital administrators spend a lot of money in an attempt to attract business (patients) to their facility. This, of course, includes the process of recruiting and retaining any physicians and surgeons, which makes senseƒwherever the doctor goes, the patient will surely follow. These community healers are so valuable to the hospital_s financial security that hospital managers will even go so far as to further entice allegiance by giving doctors (who already make a bazillion dollars a year) free hospital cafeteria food when they pass through their doors.

Ok, but what about EMS? Don_t we deserve free food too? There are few perks in our line of work, and for those working in a busy 9-1-1 system, eating a good meal on duty is about as easy as finding a sober patient after 2 a.m.

A lot of 9-1-1 patients don_t have a hospital preference, as they_re selfishly preoccupied with thoughts of permanent disability or impending death. Assuming destination transport times wouldn_t be affected, where would you take your patient if you had a choiceƒan ED that routinely rations cans of coagulated cheese whiz, or an ED serving microwaveable pizza (sans anchovies)? Hmm Ú tough one. Simply put, feed us and we will come.

Surely, it can_t be that simple? hospital administrators must be thinking. Actually, it is. Fresh sub sandwiches will raise your administrative trauma stats while instilling goodwill among all men and women of the EMS Planet.

Here_s a piece of advice: Don_t give out really good food only during EMS week or holidays. Surprise us. Intrigue us. Keep us guessing. And while I_m on a roll here (not the bread kind), providing us healthy foodƒalthough good for the HDLƒisn_t our work food of choice. Have you ever noticed how right after a food platter has been pillaged from the EMS lounge, the only thing left are melon slices and a spattering of antiquated grapes? Don_t get me wrong, medics will plunder and eat almost anything. But trust me, free distribution of high-fiber bran muffins is a bad idea.

Speaking of being on the go, treats are the best! They provide instant gratification, kind of like an EMS dog biscuit. EMS fetches patient. EMS brings in patient. EMS releases patient (after the insurance forms are signed, of course). EMS gets a treat. EMS drools upon hearing new pager tones. EMS starts the whole process over again. Woof ! Woof!

About five years ago, I was talking with an administrator who said that their hospital was going to stop providing free food in the EMS lounge to save money. Good move! You just saved about 40 cents on a doughnut for a patient who needed $150,000 worth of follow-up cardiac care but ended up going to the competing hospital because the transporting ambulance medic dude saw a sugar cookie in his immediate future.

FYI: You can always tell when a medic has food on their mind, because they tend to speak like they_re at a fast food drive-thru window when patching into the receiving trauma center. ˙Yeah, hello? I got one pnuemothorax with a chest tube on the side. Oh, and one evisceration Ú hold the intestines.Ó

Until next time, be safe.

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Related Topics: Administration and Leadership, Lighter Side of EMS, Jems Lighter Side

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Steve Berryhas been a paramedic for the past 25 years in the southern Colorado region. He's the author of the cartoon book series I'm Not An Ambulance Driver. Visit his Web site at to purchase his books or CDs.


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