My friend had a heart attack at a party we were at. We were all taken by surprise, and I dialled the paramedics as quickly as I could.
As his wife knelt by his side, she was frantically screaming
“How long is the bloody ambulance going to be!?”
“About twenty feet” is apparently not the answer she was looking for.
Moan and groan as much as you like – I had to laugh the first time I read this.
And now, before you strangle me because of my percieved bad sense of humour (you wouldn’t be the first one), hear me out. This has a serious twist to it.
What’s in a name?
A clear misunderstanding – the first person dials for medical assistance in the form of Paramedics, whilst the wife of the victim asks how long the vehicle will be.
Why is it so engrained in to the public mind that if you need medical assistance, you call for a big box on wheels with flashing lights and some bright paint splashed on the side.
If my house is being burgled, I don’t want a police car, I want police officers. If my garden is burning, I don’t want a fire truck, I want some firefighters. If my toilet is blocked, I don’t want a van with a tap and some tools in the back, I want a plumber. And so forth, I could carry on ad nauseum.
So why the fixation with our transportation device (which is in decline anyway, but Community Paramedicine, Paramedic Practitioners, treat and release is another story). Why the constant referral to our vehicle?
Any Paramedic is most likely to develop and burst an aneurysm very quickly if referred to as an “Ambulance Driver” all to often. We don’t like that. We do more than just drive the ambulance.
But no-one really bats an eyelid if the vehicle is called for assistance, without any proper regard to the professionals that actually staff the vehicle and perform the magic.
If you need medical assistance and call an ambulance, maybe the ambulance will help you get better. But since we don’t have vans that can drive autonomously, thats why we need “Ambulance Drivers’. They just drive the vehicle; they won’t attempt to help or heal you, the vehicle will do that. They just drive the ambulance.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m rabbiting on about nothing? Missing my point?
At the Emergency Services Show 2012 (I wrote about it here and here) I came across many ambulances of all shapes and sizes. As you can see above, many things marked as an “Ambulance” had arms and legs, a torso, and a head on the top. But no flashing lights. Strange, since the Oxford Dictionary defines an ambulance as:
a vehicle equipped for taking sick or injured people to and from hospital, especially in emergencies
I doubt the bloke in the picture would really want to piggyback a sick or injured person all the way to hospital.
But the misnomers don’t stop there, oh no. What about “Ambulance Service”? Is this the local van dealership providing vehicles?
Here in the UK there is an organisation going by the name of NARU – the National Ambulance Resilience Unit. I suppose the splash very tough paint on the trucks, and maybe equip them with bulletproof tyres.
Then there is the AACE – the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (also on twitter). When on shift, and I’m the clinically most senior person working, does that make me the Chief Executive on the Ambulance? What about when the ambulance is at the workshop? I take it the AACE are a bunch of people in charge of a lot of vans. Fleet managers I believe is what they call them.
Last but not least, the AACE have an “Ambulance Leadership Forum”. Sounds like an advanced driving course to me – how to lead my ambulance through heavy traffic, and around oddly placed cones on the ground.
I hope I have got my point across what we are not.
So then, if we aren’t a vehicle, what are we? Simple:
We are Paramedics.
We practice Paramedicine.
We study Paramedicine.
We (generally) work for Paramedic Services.
Canadians picked this up quickly (Ottawa Paramedic Services, Peel Regional Paramedic Services, to name a few). No matter what education, you are a Paramedic. Primary Care, Advanced Care, Critical Care…all just subdivisions: They are Paramedics. Some Australian states have picked it up in part (most notably New South Wales and Victoria).
I am aware of some of the legal minefields in different parts of the world (for example, the title “Paramedic” is reserved to those registered as a Paramedic in the UK, and anyone stating they are a paramedic without UK proper registration is committing an offence and can be prosecuted). But I will still refer to you all as Paramedics. You still practice Paramedicine.
- The Paramedic is the professional practitioner
- A Paramedic Service is the provider of emergency medical services staffed by paramedics; and
- Paramedicine is the discipline and the area of medical study and knowledge.
What’s in a name? A whole lot. If we as a want to be taken seriously, we need to be referred to by our professional title. That doesn’t incorporate our vehicle.
It’s our profession.
I am a Paramedic.