Why I avoided patient outcome information at the beginning of my career.

Very early on in my EMS career I decided that I would deny myself the joy of knowing I made a positive influence in somebody’s life in exchange for not having to face the fact that sometimes no matter what I do people die. It was a very conscious decision and for years I lived by it.

Let me explain:

There was a very bad shift when I had two emergency calls. The first was a small child, about 6, that was run over by an unknown vehicle. We knew it was a vehicle of some sort because he still had the tire marks on his back. Multiple fractures, tension pneumothorax, mass felt to his abdomen. Patient required RSI and in my opinion he was holding on by a thread. My partner was a big, tall and very tough white boy. Believe me, he was about 6 foot 5, 280 solid pounds and I had seen him brave some of our very toughest emergency calls. On the elevator up with the patient and the ER team I think the amount of stress we had gone through got the better of him. I didn’t hear it, but when I turned to him there were tears streaming down his face as he looked at the poor child on our stretcher. He apologized, something I quickly dismissed. I told him it was ok but we still needed to finish the call. No matter what the emotions. We did finish the call and delivered him right to the waiting trauma surgeons who quickly determined there was a liver laceration that would have to take priority.

Shortly after we had another emergency. A 15 year old babysitting his brother while their mother was next door suddenly has an extreme headache. He literally tells his brother to run and get their mom because he feels his brain bleeding. Unresponsive upon our arrival, code 3 transport to the ER with supportive measures being done. He was alive as we delivered him to the ER. No past medical history, all vital signs were normal. CT shortly after showed a massive hemorrhage.

Here’s the crux of the story: A few days later my partner, who had been following the outcome of the two patients, comes into the office and informs me that the 6 year old had survived the surgeries and was progressively improving. The doctors were now being cautiously optimistic and even went so far as to say no neurological deficit had been noted and wasn’t expected.

Can you imagine the elation? We saved the child, we stopped something I felt was inevitable! A complete recovery.

Then my partner told me the 15 year old had died within the hour after we had left the ER. A 15 year old stroke patient. Dead.

It didn’t seem worth it to me, the save was great but I felt the loss extremely.

So for a few years I didn’t go back to get the outcomes of my patients. I did what I could, I followed my protocols, the latest ACLS, PALS, PHTLS, AMLS and any other teachings I could get my hands on. I prided myself on pushing myself for my patients and then as soon as they were completely under the care of the nursing staff at the ER I would forget them.

It took me a long time, but I learned something.

I learned the dead sometimes can still teach us a few things. I learned sometimes being punished, even if it’s by your own self, can be the best mentor. I learned that pain is necessary.

I will continue on why this is important in my next blog.

Thank you for listening.

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  1. Reblogged this on Justacceptit's Blog and commented:
    Well worth a read.

  1. March 8th, 2013

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