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The Care and Feeding of your Medical Crew

Posted 12 years 244 days ago ago by Admin

By Mike Biasatti - How do you build trust among your crew? I’m always impressed when I ask one of the med crew a question that they don’t know the answer to, and instead of trying to BS me with some verbal gymnastics, they answer,  “I don’t know.” Those who are truly interested in building a strong sense of team will go one further and follow with, “I’ll find out and get back to you.” Now in the greater scheme of things my question will likely have little to do with EMS Scene Loadmy flying the aircraft and my interest is probably curiosity-based on something I overheard or might have seen or watched on a late night re-run of ER, but once someone tries to baffle you with big medical dictionary words that you and possibly they don’t know the meaning of, instead of being willing to acknowledge they don’t know, the respect chain is damaged.

This concept of course works in both directions. Most experienced medical crews have been around aviation in some form or fashion for a period of time that they pick up lots of industry lingo, useless facts and some actual practical area expertise. Invariably a question pointed in your direction will be proffered to others whose paycheck lists the same occupational specialty as yours and they may actually know the correct answer to what was asked. Now your credibility is tarnished.

I remember flying on a Southwest flight many years ago and while we were getting ready to land a lady in the same row asked her male companion how they landed the plane when the weather was bad and they couldn’t see because of clouds. Well I wish this hadn’t happened about 15 years ago (no cell phone with a recording device) because his explanation, which had not a sliver of fact or truth to it, was a fanciful concoction that he may have actually believed and she certainly did. His willingness to conjure up imaginary sign posts and fanciful descriptions, if found out later would likely not affect her willingness to fly with him again, after all he was nowhere near the controls, but what if your pilot tonight tried to con you with half truths and slight of hand when you asked a direct question? How does one’s attitude affect your perception of them as a team player? You really do build more credibility by acknowledging that you don’t know something and then actually finding the answer and reporting back in a timely fashion.

As a pilot, I sometimes take for granted that the crews I fly with find me to be a safe and conscientious pilot in whom they put their trust. From time to time I’m asked questions I’ve either forgotten the answers to or just plain never knew them. I look at these as perfect opportunities to build trust and respect. In this day of modern electronics and smart phones, finding the answer or having someone verify yours is pretty simple. Including the inquirer in your research is another great, often missed opportunity as building respect and a sense of team.

I think we all have our favorites when it comes to whom we share a shift with. Mine are my favorites not because they know everything, but because their ego isn’t so inflated and their pride isn’t so fragile that when confronted with something they don’t know, they’re professional and mature enough to acknowledge that fact and then use the appropriate path to remedy the situation. They also treat people with respect, from the tech that meets them at the aircraft with a stretcher, to the cardiac surgeon they give their report to. They accomplish all of this without feeling the need to belittle someone who may know even less, to try and make them feel better about themselves. Too often I’ve observed the opposite and someone whom I had built respect for over a period of years could lose it all during the course of a single call. Credibility and trust are core elements of a healthy, positive working relationship between crew members and you must be willing to effectively communicate with another and put first and foremost the ultimate goal of the mission.

I have heard and have often said that 20% of this job is moving the sticks and making good decisions, the remaining 80% is getting along with others. You can’t be so thin-skinned that you don’t allow for constructive analysis by others and you really can’t allow hurt feelings or a bruised ego to taint your focus when you are engaged in the performance of your duties. An even bigger challenge is to acknowledge to yourself when you are in over your head. I have enormous respect for a crew member I knew many years ago who after getting a flight job at his dream program realized that his skill set was not up to the level that he felt was needed. Instead of digging in, taking advantage of his partner and potentially putting someone under his care at risk, he stood up and explained how he felt, left on good terms, went out and worked for the experience he felt he lacked and has been back at and an asset to that program for many years now.

You don’t have to be a flight nurse or flight paramedic to be exceptional in your field. Hospitals, ambulance companies, fire departments and other facilities are filled with some extraordinarily talented medical caregivers who have no interest in plying their trade in the air. However if you choose to be a flight nurse, flight paramedic or air medical pilot then you should strive every day to improve and be exceptional in your actions, your care and your professionalism.

The time and effort required to act as an autonomous medical caregiver or certificated pilot in command on this job takes years to hone and a lifetime to perfect. The responsibility’s that are undertaken are substantial and should not be discounted. That’s by no means to say that you should ever carry yourself in a manner that elevates you in a manner that diminishes others (hospital nurses, techs, physicians, first responders, etc.). Imagine that you are the family member of the patient in question. How would you want these strangers who are going to care for your loved one to carry themselves, to interact with others having a part in giving care? If you observe something less than professional treatment, be the one who stands and says, “I don’t like the way you did X or the way you spoke to Y.” More importantly when your partner or another person in the chain of care performs above and beyond the standard, acknowledge that with even greater enthusiasm. Dale Carnegie in his timeless book How to Win Friends and Influence People suggests: “Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

Taking pride in your work is important and helping others be able to take pride in theirs is one small step in making everyone and everything better during a time when things are likely at their worst. Be that person who not only makes a positive outcome in patient’s prognosis, but who also leaves things better than they found them. Always perform and treat people in a way that your can be proud of.

Set out to challenge yourself on the way in to work and grade yourself on the way out. Never stop learning and make yourself available to mentor others as a form of their professional development and your own. Fly Safe.