Ten Signs You Might Not Be the Safest EMS Organization

Based on the EMS Forward Report presented by Lee Varner, NSEMS, EMT-P, at the National EMS Safety Summit. Varner is project manager of EMS services for the nonprofit Center for Patient Safety and a Just Culture trainer. He presented these 10 areas in which an EMS agency many not be as safe as they think if they are not addressing the latest research and technology.

1. Avoid ambulance crashes: The data show there is no need for lights and sirens on all calls.

2. Airway: Capnography, checklist/cognitive aids and airway vigilance are recommended to ensure compliance and proper procedures.

3. Device failures: With the influx of new technology and devices, we must properly train our personnel to use it and troubleshoot it. Simulation was noted as a positive approach in this area.

4. Medication errors: The use of charts, guides and checklist were noted as helpful, as well as routine use of cross-checking process prior to medication administration.

5. Pediatrics: Encourage EMS providers to review equipment and procedures frequently.

6. Behavioral health patients: Realize that no encounter is the same and every patient is different–vigilance must be practiced to protect yourself and your patient.

7. Transition of care: Make sure there are no poor communication aspects in your operations that can result in misunderstandings, mistakes or errors.

8. Mobile integrated healthcare: Establish measures to ensure safety is considered.

9. Second victim: When a provider experiences a stressful situation or patient-related injury and becomes affected by it (first death witnessed, pediatric cases, MCIs, etc.). Getting to the provider immediately after an event has been shown to be highly effective in mitigating emotional damage.

10. Culture is the key: You must promote a model of shared accountability to ensure you have a culture of safety in your organization.

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