Why some discussions are more pertinent than others

As the “Great Online Ambulance Driver Blog War of 2012”™ winds down, over at The Social Medic Dave disagreed with my elevating the discussion on “Kidnapping Patients” to a higher level than use of the term “ambulance driver.” I need to take a minute to explain why I think one topic is more important than the other because it doesn’t have to do with the topic, but the message. Unfortunately, this does require splitting some fine hairs.

The first thing we need to do is define who our audience is. For EMS blogs, that audience is paramedics (inclusive). The general public is not going to normally find their way to EMS blogs no more than I’m going to find my way to blogs discussing the finer aspects of celebrity fashion. Furthermore, among paramedics I’m going to generalize that there are really two different opinions when it comes to the term “ambulance driver.” There’s the “Aww, heck no, I ain’t no ambulance driver” group and the “Shrugs, whatever” group. Very few people, with maybe one notable and cheeky fellow, are going to support the use of the term “ambulance driver.” This leads the discussion to a “preaching to the choir” situation where everyone pretty much agrees before hand, but it’s not really the group that needs to get the message.

Here’s where the fine hairs are split. Personally, I’m of the opinion that one of the big reasons why paramedics are called “ambulance drivers,” “EMS providers,” “emergency workers,” or a whole host of other rather generic terms is because we’ve failed to give a single term. Can’t call EMTs a paramedic or vice versa least someone gets offended because they’re not that level. A discussion, however, on what the generic term for “EMS providers” should be is something worth discussing since it is in our power to choose what words we, as individuals, use when interacting with the general public. This is something that the audience for EMS blogs can change in themselves, as well as spreading the message to others. Personally, in this case I’m taking the Canadian solution and using the term “paramedic” for the generic term.

Furthermore, by deciding on a generic term, we’re working towards fixing the problem instead of just complaining that the problem exists. It’s the difference between constructive criticism and simple criticism.

Similarly, the discussion on kidnapping/false imprisonment/patient’s rights is vastly more important than simply discussing the use of the term “ambulance driver” since it also can directly affect how we treat our patients. Additionally, it’s much more likely to generate useful discussion as this is the type of issue that will likely get passed along to management and medical control. Given the moral, ethical, and legal issues involved (patient’s control of medical care vs paternalism), it’s an issue that needs to be decided and accepted (unaccepted mandates tend not to be followed) by the crews before it occurs in the field. This is the sort of issue that cannot and should not be decided on an ad hoc basis during a call, and is the reason why it’s vastly more important than discussing a random person calling us “ambulance drivers.”


Other people using “ambulance driver”= not in the audience’s control.

The generic term we use = in the audience’s control

Balancing the patient’s wishes vs good medical care = in the audience’s control.

In the audience’s control = important.

Things not in the audience’s control = not important.

About Joe Paczkowski

I am an EMT and a second year medical student at Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP).
This entry was posted in EMS Levels, EMS Operations, EMS: A Profession and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why some discussions are more pertinent than others

  1. Pingback: Round 3 of Happy Medic’s Rules for Kidnapping | Rogue Medic

  2. “Why I Am More Important Than You!”

    That’s what I hear you saying, anyway. But then all that came after you showed us how astute you were in your personal opinion about the term “Ambulance Driver”. Could this all be about YOU, Joe?

    What’s the conflict? What’s the difference? These are two unrelated and separate subjects. Or are they? Maybe they’re just two small facets of a much bigger picture; like who do we wish to be and how do we wish the (public/politicians/practitioners/ourselves/each other/) to view us and our roles?

    Making this a pissing contest and assigning greater importance of one over the other feels Bush League (take it any way you want to!). Yes I do hear you and you’re right it’s so much MORE IMPORTANT than anything else on the table right now! Does that feel better? I hope so, it sounds like that’s what you’re looking for.

    Why I got involved in EMS Blogs was because there were a huge variety of voices there. The common language was EMS and the common desire was to influence each other for the better because the participants care about the business, industry, profession; whatever you want to call it.

    Each person has his own agenda or hot buttons or pet causes and that’s why I read and participate; I learn something new, get stimulated to think, or find something I can build on. What doesn’t grab me, I skip over, deciding for myself whether or not it’s important for my life right now.

    So have your cause, push your cause, convert others to your cause but please don’t think you’ll be any better respected because you did it while kicking other causes in the ass to make yours seem top priority. We’re quite capable of deciding what’s important for ourselves.

  3. Pingback: Round 4 of Happy Medic’s Rules for Kidnapping | Rogue Medic

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