Advance Preparation Prepare examples of communication equipment. Plan a tour of a local communications/dispatch center. Invite an EMS dispatcher.
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Planning Your Time: Plan 85 minutes for this chapter. Communications Systems and Radio Communication (15 minutes) The Verbal Report (15 minutes) Interpersonal Communication (20 minutes) Prehospital Care Report (20 minutes) Special Documentation Issues (15 minutes) Note: The total teaching time recommended is only a guideline.
Teaching Time: 15 minutes Teaching Tips: Take a field trip. Visit a local EMS communications center. Review components of EMS communications there. Invite an EMS dispatcher to class. Share the insights of an experienced professional communicator. Have actual radio systems on hand to demonstrate. Listen in. Scan local EMS frequencies and hear actual EMS communications.
Point to Emphasize: Traditional EMS radio systems take a variety of forms. Most systems have common components that are readily identifiable. Talking Points: Radios are the most common communication system, as they are versatile and inexpensive, allow two-way communication, don’t rely on commercial cell towers, and their transmissions are frequently recorded. Cell phones transmit through the air to cell towers, they can reach greater distances, and digital transmissions are very clear (although commercial cell towers may not yet be accessible in some rural areas).
Talking Points: Base stations are fixed locations such as dispatch centers or hospitals. Mobile radios are mounted in vehicles. Portable radios are handheld and battery-powered. Repeaters receive a radio signal and rebroadcast it over another frequency at a much higher power to reach long distances. Microwave transmission is now used in some areas. Digital radio transmissions can be sent with the simple push of a button, and are useful for status changes such as “call received,” “en route,” “on scene,” reducing radio traffic. Discussion Topic: Describe the components of an EMS radio system. Class Activity: Visit a local EMS communications center. Identify radio components; discuss radio communication techniques.
Class Activity: Invite a local communications supervisor or dispatch to discuss the local communications system.
Point to Emphasize: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates radio usage in EMS. Discussion Topic: Describe the federal and local regulation of EMS radio communication.
Talking Points: Wait at least 1 second after pushing the PTT button before beginning your transmission; this will prevent your first word from being cut off. This is especially important for systems using a repeater.
Talking Points: Do not speak directly into the microphone, as the air from your mouth will be heard as static. Direct your voice across the microphone. Avoid using people’s names. Knowledge Application: Scan local EMS frequencies and listen to actual communications. Discuss positive and negative examples.
Talking Points: Codes are frequently different between services, and may be misunderstood. Courtesy is implied: avoid niceties and filler words that only prolong your transmission.
Talking Points: “Unit 15” may be heard as “Unit 50”; avoid miscommunication by saying “Unit 15, one-five.” Civilians with scanners may be listening to radio transmissions, so you should never use a patient’s name or other identifying information because HIPAA laws apply. Refrain from offering an opinion, give “just the facts.”
Talking Points: You are part of a team, and will rarely work alone, so “we” is more appropriate than “I.” The words “yes” and “no” are often difficult to distinguish in a radio transmission. Again, just give the facts.
Talking Points: Avoid pauses in your transmission; others may think you are done and begin their own transmission. When finished, say “over” to officially end your transmission. Do not use the radio to say hello to a coworker in another unit, or any other personal business; these frequencies are for EMS communications only. Discussion Topic: Describe the essential components of communication between provider and EMS dispatcher.
Point to Emphasize: Most radio communication in EMS takes place between field personnel and dispatch. Common processes make communication more efficient. Talking Points: When two units transmit simultaneously, the one heard is often closest to dispatch or the one with the more powerful radio. The confirmation by dispatch will be your indication that dispatch, as opposed to another unit, heard you.
Talking Points: Proper care and maintenance includes checking that all radios are functioning before the start of your shift, ensuring that portable radios are sufficiently charged. The portable radio may be your lifeline in the event of an emergency. Knowledge Application: Make radio communication an ongoing lesson. Require radio communication and patient reports for any mock scenario.
Point to Emphasize: The medical radio report is structured to present pertinent facts about the patient without telling more detail than necessary. Talking Points: The hospital may need to prepare a certain room, call a specialist, or have specific equipment ready for your arrival. Some providers and hospitals prefer medical reports be given by phone to protect patient’s privacy. Be brief; excessive details take up everyone&apos;s time and tie up the radio frequency. Paint a quick verbal picture. If your patient is critical, prepare your words, take a deep breath, stay calm, speak slowly and deliberately. Class Activity: Invite a local communications supervisor or dispatch to discuss the local communications system.
Talking Points: Remember, be brief. Give only pertinent information that the hospital can use to prepare for your arrival. Detailing all the complaints or the patient’s entire medical history is not necessary; this will be given in a face-to-face verbal report.
Talking Points: Give only physical exam findings that are pertinent to the patient’s condition (swollen feet would be pertinent in a cardiac patient, but not in a hand laceration patient); certain information should be saved for the face-to-face verbal report. Discussion Topic: Describe an EMS radio report. What elements must be included? Knowledge Application: Use actual radios (or toy radios) and require students to give real-time medical radio reports. Critique and discuss. Critical Thinking: What potential confidentiality concerns arise out of communicating patient information over the radio?
Talking Points: Communicating with medical control is particularly important. You will be speaking to a physician. Medical control will confirm or deny your request by the quality of your report. Speak confidently and professionally. Remember, radio transmissions are recorded, so requests for medical control orders should be made by radio.
Teaching Time: 15 minutes Teaching Tips: Practice makes perfect. Use mock scenarios and practice verbal reports. Make verbal reports (and radio reports) an ongoing lesson in class. Require reports to be given after any scenario. Offer constructive criticism. Don’t allow poor reports. Correct and require improved performance.
Points to Emphasize: The first information given to hospital personnel usually will be the verbal report. A verbal report will summarize and enhance the prior radio report. Talking Points: The verbal report is given when turning over patient care at hospitals and other destinations. This is not the time to be brief; be detailed and specific. The person you give the verbal report to is likely not the same person you gave the radio report to. Discussion Topic: When would an EMT utilize a verbal report? Class Activity: Assign students the task of practicing five verbal reports at home. Have them make up scenarios and practice with a friend. Have them document self-critiques. Knowledge Application: Have students work in small groups. Provide each group with a scenario and have them prepare and deliver a verbal report. Critique and discuss.
Point to Emphasize: A proper verbal report will include the chief complaint, any history that was not given previously, additional treatment given, and additional vital signs taken en route. Discussion Topic: Discuss the key components of an effective verbal report. Knowledge Application: Assign “written verbal reports.” Provide an in-class scenario and have students write up the components of their verbal report. Critical Thinking: This chapter discusses limiting verbal reports and being concise. What are the potential hazards of being too brief?
Video Clip Effective Communication What is the goal of communication? Why is it necessary for a leader to be an effective communicator? Why should EMTs choose their words carefully? Describe ways for EMTs to communicate effectively with their superiors. Why is follow-up in communication an important task for an EMT?
Teaching Time: 20 minutes Teaching Tips: Role play. Use scripted situations to simulate communication challenges. Discuss. Use nonverbal communication. Ask students to demonstrate nonverbal communication; discuss the results. Discuss improving communication in the context of the secondary assessment. Build on the lessons of previous chapters. Review how more information might improve the assessment. Discuss language choices. Relate this section to medical terminology. Discuss how plain language can aid therapeutic communication.
Point to Emphasize: Communication is an invaluable component of teamwork. Talking Points: EMTs need to communicate effectively with many types of people. Bystanders include family and witnesses. EMS personnel include your partner, crew members, supervisors, managers, medical directors. Public safety personnel include firefighters, police officers, security guards. Hospital staff include doctors, nurses, surgeons, administrators, clerks. Others to communicate with include utility workers, nursing home staff, teachers, school nurses, and others with an important role at a scene. You need to draw as much information as possible from other members of the team. You need information for a complete assessment, and must appropriately transfer care. Discussion Topic: Discuss the role of communication in teamwork.
Point to Emphasize: Communicating with patients who are in crisis can be difficult, but there are techniques to improve communication capabilities. Talking Points: Communication skills are naturally easy for some, more difficult for others. They can be difficult to learn, but they can be learned.
Talking Points: A patient may avoid eye contact due to cultural beliefs. In these cases, match your behavior to theirs. Standing above the patient with arms crossed (closed stance) conveys authority, not warmth and understanding. This stance may be necessary at times to gain control. Pay attention to the patient’s body language: a closed stance may indicate your failure to make the patient comfortable. Discussion Topic: How might personal space and body language impact communication? What are some steps that an EMT might take to improve these elements? Knowledge Application: Use a programmed patient and simulate assessment scenarios. Present barriers to communication (loud music, overly aggressive family, and the like). Have students develop communication strategies to overcome these problems.
Talking Points: Do not use complex medical terms, and explain procedures before you perform them. If the patient asks a difficult question (“Am I having a heart attack?”), answer truthfully, but with care, compassion, and concern. Remember, you are their introduction to medical care, and distrust of you may lead to distrust of the care providers they meet later. Critical Thinking: You are treating a patient who has had a stroke. As a result of the stroke, the patient cannot speak. How might you still be able to communicate with this patient?
Talking Points: Use the patient’s last name unless she insists you call her by her first name. Never use condescending names like “honey” or “sweetie.” After asking a question, give the patient time to answer. Listen intently to the answer without interrupting. If the patient feels you are not paying attention, rapport will be lost. Discussion Topic: Describe five steps that improve interpersonal communication. Class Activity: Have a class discussion. Develop a list of positive communication traits based on students’ personal experience. Brainstorm and then prioritize the list. Knowledge Application: Create simulated assessments, but use students as patients. Have programmed providers use poor communication techniques; then discuss the impact on the assessment.
Point to Emphasize: Pediatric, elderly, and other special populations of patients may require the EMT to adapt communication practices. Talking Points: Adults with mental disabilities should be treated like adults. Speak slowly and clearly, and explain everything. Blind patients are not deaf: do not yell, explain your actions, ask before touching them, and do not physically lead them. Hearing impaired patients may communicate in writing; a basic knowledge of sign language would be beneficial. If you do not speak the patient’s language, use bilingual family members or bystanders, hospital translation services, telephone interpreter, etc. Your size may intimidate a child, kneel down to the child’s level and make eye contact. Children almost always feel comfortable with their parents; involve them when communicating with children. Be honest, children are sensitive to lies and deception. Distracting children with toys or allowing them to play with safe EMS equipment may be beneficial. Discussion Topic: Discuss how interpersonal communication with a child might be different from that with an adult.
Video Clip Alternate Methods of Communication With Children How do children communicate through play? What are some alternate ways to communicate with children? What are some techniques that an EMT can use to help reduce a child’s fear?
Teaching Time: 20 minutes Teaching Tips: Make documentation routine (as it is in EMS). Require documentation of all simulated calls. Consider take-home assignments to complete documentation. Discuss the path of a PCR. Detail who might review it and how it might be used beyond the level of the EMT. Discuss the role of PCRs within a quality assurance system. Present a state PCR (handwritten or electronic). Discuss its components.
Point to Emphasize: The prehospital care report serves as the record of the EMT’s interaction with the patient. The prehospital care report can take a variety of formats, from handwritten to electronic. Talking Points: Your state, region, or service may call it a run sheet, trip report, or other similar name. Some are still handwritten, most are computerized. Laptop versions are written on a portable laptop computer, electronic tablet types are small touch screen computers that use check boxes or translate handwriting into text, web based require logging in to a web site. Discussion Topic: Describe how patient care is documented in your area. What are the required components?
Points to Emphasize: Besides being a record of patient interaction, the prehospital care report also serves as a legal document, provides information for administrative functions, aids education and research, and contributes to quality improvement. Talking Points: Your PCR documents everything you saw, found, and did. If it is not recorded in the PCR, it did not happen. It records the scene, and all that happened before arrival at the hospital. Remember, those that read your PCR did not see what you did; you need to “paint” a clear picture of what you saw. It should be completed before you leave the hospital, so the staff can reference it when caring for the patient. Class Activity: Present a scenario to the class. Discuss interactions and interventions.
Talking Points: The PCR is a legally binding document, and is frequently used as evidence. You may also be called to testify that you wrote it. A PCR can be used to prove a patient was injured, assaulted, or abused. It can also be used to prove negligence. Court cases are often months or years later; therefore, the PCR will be your memory of the event, so record it accurately. Remember, legally, only what is recorded occurred. Therefore, if it is not written, it did not officially happen. Discussion Topic: Discuss the role of confidentiality with regard to patient documentation. Why does a PCR need to be strictly confidential? Critical Thinking: How might a properly documented PCR protect an EMT from liability? How might it defend an EMT in the event of a lawsuit?
Talking Points: If your service bills for service, the PCR is vitally important, as it contains all demographic information, including the patient’s address, date of birth, social security number, insurance information, and usually signature that confirms their agreement for financial responsibility.
Talking Points: Researchers can access PCRs to collect data for research and compile statistics on injuries or EMS use. PCRs can be used as educational tools: unusual or uncommon patients and their PCRs can be presented as CE. Each treatment is recorded and attached to a provider or employee number, and these skills can be tracked and totaled.
Talking Points: Often called QI, QA (quality assurance), or CQI (continuous quality improvement). Random call review monitors adherence to policies, protocols, scope of practice, or other medical or operational standards. They can expose an outstanding outcome, or an area of weakness. Knowledge Application: Create class QA committees. Have students submit their routine documentation to their peers for review.
Point to Emphasize: A prehospital care report consistently contains key elements, including the run data and patient information sections. Talking Points: There may be a difference of several minutes between the time displayed on your watch and the dispatch center’s official time. This time difference may seem insignificant but is actually very important in such areas as determining how long a patient has been in cardiac arrest, trends in patient condition, or measurement of system efficiency in response times. Discussion Topic: List and describe the essential elements of the “run data” section of a PCR.
Discussion Topic: List and describe the essential elements of the “patient information” section of a PCR. Knowledge Application: Have students write prehospital care reports for simulated calls. Review and grade the documentation.
Talking Points: Objective information: “3-inch laceration above the left eye” or “blood glucose level 128” or “history of hypertension.” Subjective information: “patient complaining of severe back pain” or “patient reports no loss of consciousness.” Avoid making your own subjective statements in your report: “Patient is experiencing an MI” is your opinion, not an official diagnosis.
Talking Points: The chief complaint is exactly that, the one primary thing the patient is complaining of. The presenting problem, or mechanism of injury (MVC, fall, broken leg) is not a chief complaint. An appropriate chief complaint would be “neck pain,” “difficulty breathing,” or “leg pain.” A direct quote is most accurate: “My leg hurts.” The lack of swollen feet in a respiratory patient is an important negative finding, and must be recorded. Knowledge Application: Practice narratives. While completing simulated calls, have students write brief narratives of the patient’s information.
Talking Points: Others reading your PCR may not be familiar with codes. Abbreviations are useful and will reduce the length of your chart and the time needed to complete it, but only common medical abbreviations should be used. Computerized PCRs eliminate legibility problems, but handwritten PCRs must be legible. A sloppy PCR with spelling or grammar errors may be seen as poor patient care. Your chart should sound like it was written by the trained professional you are. Use professional medical language: “laceration” instead of “cut”; “ecchymosis” instead of “bruise.” But do not try to use medical terms you are not familiar with. Remember the saying…“If it’s not written, you didn’t do it.” Class Activity: Present a scenario to the class. Discuss interactions and interventions. Have each student complete a PCR at home and return it at the next class. Have students exchange patient care reports and correct each other’s work. Discuss and critique.
Video Clip Understanding Cultural Perspectives Why is it necessary for an EMT to understand different cultural beliefs and values? Why should an EMT approach every patient as a unique individual? How can an EMT be sensitive to a patient’s beliefs about death and dying? How can a patient’s beliefs about medicines and nutrition influence the care that an EMT provides? Discuss ways in which an EMT can become more culturally competent.
Teaching Time: 15 minutes Teaching Tips: Rigorously enforce confidentiality standards. Do not accept violations, even in routine class discussions. Use a class QA committee. Have students submit their routine documentation to their peers for review; critique documentation errors. Invite an attorney to class to discuss the role of confidentiality and proper documentation with regard to medical/legal situations.
Points to Emphasize: The prehospital care report itself and the information that it contains are strictly confidential. A properly documented patient care report is an essential component of patient refusal. Talking Points: To ensure accountability and security, put completed PCRs in lock boxes or other secure areas for safe keeping. For refusals, you must do a thorough assessment and document all findings in detail, including why the patient refused and what you recommended. Make sure to tell patients to call back if they feel worse. If the patient meets refusal criteria, have the patient as well as a witness (preferably family or police, not your partner) sign the refusal form. Consider a medical control consult, as well. Discussion Topic: Describe the necessary documentation elements with regard to a patient refusal. Class Activity: Have a mock trial. Choose a PCR from a simulation and accuse a student of wrongdoing. Can the student defend himself, based on the documentation? Knowledge Application: Have students write prehospital care reports for simulated calls. Review and grade the documentation. Use simulated PCRs during clinical experiences. Have students write simulated patient care reports for patients whom they have seen; then compare and contrast with the actual PCR.
Points to Emphasize: Falsification of a patient care report can occur by either commission or omission. In either case, a serious offense has taken place. Proper procedures must be followed to correct a patient care report. Talking Points: Although you may be the only witness, resist the temptation to cover up a patient care error by not documenting it or falsifying information. Omissions or misinformation could affect patient care, and will look worse when uncovered later. If you made a mistake, own up to it. If you forgot to do something, state why. Honesty is always best. Do not completely obscure mistakes on your chart. Draw a single line through them, and initial them. Additions may require an addendum. Discussion Topics: Explain the difference between errors of omission and errors of commission with regard to falsification of patient care reports. Describe the steps involved in correcting a patient care report. Class Activity: Require students to modify a PCR. Assign specific changes and have students complete these changes as a homework assignment. Knowledge Application: Create a student QA committee. Select random documentation from programmed patients and review the patient care report as a group. Discuss.
Talking Points: A complete assessment and head-to-toe physical exam is probably not needed. The patient did not call EMS and appears to not need it. Your limited interaction can give much information for documentation: “The patient is awake and alert, and in no obvious distress; he has no complaints of pain, illness, or injury; there is no obvious trauma; patient moves all extremities well, and ambulates without assistance.” Your chart should at least include this brief assessment, along with the other details of the event. Local policy may require a refusal; if so, don’t forget a witness and a patient signature.
Talking Points: Many common rules do not apply in MCIs. Care is a unique situation, and documentation also differs. Typically most assessment and patient care is documented on a single triage tag that stays with the patient. Providers may add or change information as needed. The EMT who transports the patient to the hospital will use the triage tag to complete one comprehensive traditional PCR.
Talking Points: These are a few situations that may require supplemental documentation. These forms are often specific to a local agency and not part of a PCR.
Talking Points: Students should evaluate their own communication characteristics and follow the pointers in the chapter to improve their techniques. They might want to do this with a partner. Sometimes the boundary between objective and subjective may be unclear. Is a fact verifiable, or does it rest on someone’s opinion? Remind students to err on the side of complete documentation.
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