August 19, 2009

Teaching from the Tube: Emergency! "Trainee"

Tonight, we showed this episode of the classic EMS TV show "Emergency!" at my squadron. In this episode, the Paramedics and Doctors must deal with a paramedic-trainee who feels he knows better than the doctors and the program.

Check it out below before continuing reading.

There is an awful lot one can take from this episode as a teaching tool, which is partially why it was chosen. Three things come to mind as I watch this episode: The value of procedure, the need for a professional attitude, and the value of looking past pre-conceptions.

The first, value of procedure, may be easily lost on some. Near the end of the episode, Ed Marlow asks why all the pomp and circumstance for an apparent drug overdose. The answer in this case becomes clear: because it isn't a classic overdose. In the same manner, some newcomers may wonder why CAP may dispatch an aircraft and ground teams for what is most likely a non-distress find. The answer here is the same: because it might not be.

The value of procedure has other applications as well. Why does CAP have a chain of command? Why does the decision to commit resources lie with some commands and not others? The reasoning is to provide a check and ballance so persons with limited knowledge and experience are not making the life-or-death calls in the field. We see this illustrated beautifully in this episode. On its most basic level, the use of procedures can be shown in the various checklists used before an aircraft or vehicle starts its engine. Why bother when there are lives on the line? Because to err is human.

A professional attitude manifests itself often in how one deals with outsiders. Roy DeSoto's calm demeanor when instructing Ed is in direct contrast to Ed's own reactions to Roy's orders. In the process, Ed comes off as arrogant and immature, while Roy instantly gains the audience's trust. The scene in the locker room once again hits the nail on the head when Roy tells Ed he is a good paramedic, but professionalism is not about how well you can insert an IV. "You can't stop competing with real doctors, and you can't face being wrong" he tells the young trainee. Therefore, attitude is as much a part of professionalism as duty performance.

Finally, letting go of your preconceptions is as important a skill to any professional as being able to DF an ELT signal, insert an IV, or fly an airplane. This show demonstrates how one can see what they want to see, and only by letting go of the idea that the patient is overdosing can they properly diagnose the patient. Similarly, our Cadet ES Officer related a story tonight where his team was unable to locate an ELT in the forrest because they didn't look up into the tree tops. Letting go of preconceptions can, at the end of the day, be the difference between a "save", "find" or neither.

For a TV show that was written almost 40 years ago, it makes some valuable points.


Anonymous said...

+1 for Emergency!

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