One of the things she said really got me thinking. She said that part of her job was to answer complaints. That if anyone in the state has a problem with an EMS provider, and they are bothered enough to send a complaint to the state, she is the one who reads them and responds. She asked the audience if they could guess what the most frequent complaint is, and said that there is one thing she sees by far the most often.
People guessed things ranging from "they took too long" to "it costs too much."
It wasn't either of those. It was something far simpler. And unlike some types of complaints, it was something that we can change, immediately.
"They weren't nice to me."
Whether the complainant was the patient, or a family member, the most frequent thing that bothered them enough to actually find a way to send it to the state was that the EMS provider "wasn't nice."
Now sometimes, we get busy, focused on some intense situation, like a full arrest, and maybe our primary thought isn't to make idle chit chat with the family. If someone complains about that, then I guess there isn't a lot we can do.
But there is plenty we can do to be "nice" most of the time.
I would think that most providers out there are pretty nice people, most of the time. Certainly most of the ones I know are. But apparently not everyone- or that wouldn't be the most common complaint, would it? So maybe we need to focus on, or share, little things we can do to provide a higher level of "niceness." Especially for us, as non-transporting, so we are frequently still on scene after the ambulance leaves, there are many things we can do to be nice to the family, as well as the patient.
A short, non-inclusive list:
1. Simplest first: I always introduce myself by name and as often as possible, use theirs.
2. I make eye contact, and listen to them.
3. I have held hands, held someone's head while they vomit, rubbed backs, wiped sweat, fetched jackets, bathrobes and socks, and done a hundred other small things in the name of personal comfort.
4. For ALS calls, if the IV is started before the ambulance leaves, and a family member is riding along, I make sure they understand that the "delay" is simply because there are some procedures that are easier to do when the ambulance isn't moving. I don't want them to feel ignored, or to be sitting there imagining the worst, that the delay is because all the EMTs/Medics are frantically busy.
5. I make sure family members know which hospital the ambulance is going to, and if necessary, how to get there.
6. "I'm sorry for your loss," said with true feeling, may not be able to fix things, but it's by far better than not saying anything.
7. If we are on scene after the ambulance leaves, with family members who are stressed out, I always check to see how they are doing and ask if there is anything we can do for them before we leave. This sometimes, but not usually, includes a full assessment.
8. Most of the time, I reassure people that they did the right thing by calling. Remember, we have far more trouble here with people not calling when they should, than people calling when they shouldn't. We hear a lot of "I didn't want to trouble anyone."
I started this post last night. Had a call today where I wish they had called sooner. I'd love to hear if anyone has suggestions for pub ed to help people have a better understanding of when they should call.