Administration and Leadership, Columns, Training

There’s Such a Thing as Too Many Supplies in the Ambulance

Issue 1 and Volume 39.

It’s estimated there are close to 15 million hoarders in the U.S. I’m not sure exactly where that statistic comes from. I read it somewhere in a magazine that could be buried in any one of the 58 stacks of publications I have in my office. Either way, it’s a new year and a time to begin afresh. Out with the old and in with the new—and I mean that literally. So take all those archaic EMS books and magazines you’ve amassed over the years and toss them into the abyss of antiquatedness—unless, of course, they contain even just one page or paragraph of my ageless etchings or verbiage.

Every living creature hoards things to some degree. Squirrels hoard nuts, my dog hoards tennis balls, ambulance owners hoard money, and congress hoards stupidity. Even proctologists hoard crap, but due to limited word space I will not delve deeply into the compulsive hoarding phenomena that has been shamelessly portrayed on reality TV. Instead, I will limit the heaping trash talk to CRAP (Critiquing Rescuer Addictive Peculiarities).

So where do we begin with all this CRAP? Personally, I believe it’s the ambulance manufacturers who are partly to blame. What’s with all this excessive shelving crap (not to be confused with CRAP)?

When EMS providers encounter an empty cabinet in their ambulance, they’re instinctively inclined to fill it up with some sort of EMS paraphernalia. And even if you fill just one cabinet with one particular item, it can become disproportionate in number to the needs of the crew. For example, 10 stocked IV bags of one liter normal saline? Really? Unless you’re attempting to rehydrate the Mummy or assist the fire department in extinguishing a fire, what’s the liquidation point?

I once found 25 18-gauge angiocathes neatly aligned, for which I can only assume were prepared and battle-readied to instigate a psychotic blitzkrieg proliferation of the patient’s sheathed dermal tissue. Either that or the angiocathe handler SUCKS (Sadly Unskilled Cannulating Klutz Specialist). And speaking of cannulation, 16 nasal cannulas? Maybe those nasal prongs are being utilized for the sole purpose of keeping the patient’s nares pulled back in order to keep the head securely upright, but otherwise, there’s just so much PSI my portable O2 bottles can sustain.

During one shift in which I was attempting to unclutter a heavily fortified ambulance I was encased in, a medic noticing
my futile effort asked, “But what if the big one happens?”

“Hey,” I replied, hidden behind 17 stacked C-collars. “I’m already attending to an MCI (Massive Clutter Infiltration).” As I removed two of the three-ring cutters kept in the rig, taking the chance I would be woefully unprepared to eradicate a catastrophic phalangeal “bling” insurrection, I added, “Besides, I frequently can’t find the stuff I may need, because it’s concealed and surrounded by all the other stuff.”

“That’s just because neatly arranging minded medics are simply too lazy to look for the stuff,” he countered, obviously proud of his quick wit.

“Or maybe,” I retorted back, “we hoard EMS stuff in our rigs in the hope that the sum total of all our life-saving supplies would suggest a profession larger than the one actually lived.” A pondering awkward silence fell between us until he threw a discarded ring cutter at me, which, incidentally, cut my ring finger.

As for the EMS storage room, you can tell how old the service you work for is by the number of boxed stuff that has accumulated, one filed behind the other, each preceding row signifying a timetable of prehospital technology and history beginning with Napoleon EMS.

Don’t be surprised as you work your way back to find a Lifepak 5 cardiac monitor, a pair of pilot blackout-reducing MAST pants, EOAs, leaking head restraint sand bags and the actual Resusci Anne who drowned in the Seine River during the late 1880s. We recently found an awesome training skeleton when we cleared out our storage room, until we realized it was one of the service’s missing medics last seen in 1973 whilst hiding from his supervisor.

I myself must admit I have an OCD (Occupational Comedy Derangement) problem. Yes, I hoard EMS humor. I can’t help it. At the end of every shift I find myself accumulating more and more EMS comical absurdity. In my attempt to mix it up a little I’ve decided to change the title of my column (as you may have already noticed) into Berry Musing. Some of my articles you read in the future may have intended humor while others may take on a more serious tone, but all in all I hope you will find them worth keeping.