CK over at Life Under the Lights has written a motivational post for all EMS staff, worth not only reading, but also acting on. Are you the best that you can be at what you do? Are you the sort of paramedic that you would want called for you or your nearest and dearest? If not, what are you going to do about it? Go read his post, and come back when you're done. His is definitely a worthwhile read.
For me, Chris's post raised a completely different subject, and took me back to a major dilemma I had quite a while back. I know this sounds a little strange, but it all started when I was 14 years old.
Back then, I had just changed schools, and on my first day I was marched into a classroom, told to take the one empty seat and just get on with it. The person I sat next to that day became my friend for life. He'd only been at the school a few months longer than I had, so was also finding his feet, and yet he always made certain that I wasn't left out of whatever was happening, knew where I was going, which classes were where, and most importantly where the nearest shop supplied with chocolate was. "KitKats", said the owner every single time we walked in. "33p each, but special offer for you guys, 3 KitKats for £1". Happy days.
Our lives have since taken very different paths, in totally separate parts of the world, and yet we always make sure to keep in touch. Life sometimes gets in the way, and we don't communicate as much as we'd both like to, but anytime there's any major news in my life, he's one of the first to know about it, and vice versa.
When he moved to the USA, his parents stayed here in the UK. After a while I got to see him again, when he had to return for his father's funeral. These were not the circumstances under which I'd envisaged seeing him again, but despite the tough times, it was still a great feeling to be in the same place at the same time, if only for a short while.
Not long after he returned home to the States, I had a call to a very familiar address. My face told my crewmate more than my voice did. The address, one where I had spent so many happy hours pretending to do homework, practising our different martial arts and generally beating each other up, eating, drinking, watching TV, being teenage boys, now appeared on our MDT screen, alongside "Female, fallen, ? conscious, ? injury". I wasn't sure I could face it, and briefly considered asking one of the other crews to take the call. However, I decided that if anyone deserved my help, it was the person who'd looked after me, welcomed me into her house and regularly force-fed me all those years ago.
We arrived to find that she was conscious, but confused and injured, and would require transport to hospital. As anxious as I was about attending this call, she was just as pleased to see me emerging through the front door again, albeit in a different capacity altogether, and she wasn't entirely certain why I was there. This time, I had to do the looking after. We transported her to hospital for them to tend to her injuries, and I made a mental note that at the end of the shift I'd call my friend and tell him what had happened.
This is where I had a problem. I have treated several people over the years who either know who I am, know my family, or have some other connection to people I know. I have never, will never, divulge even the hint of the fact that I've met someone like that to my family or friends. If the patient wants people to know that they've met me, that's their prerogative and they can tell as many stories about themselves as they like. Often I'll be met with "You didn't tell MrsInsomniac that you treated me???" and other such expressions of surprise. Where I come from, it's gossip first, worry later, then gossip again anyway. I'm just not like that, not in general, and definitely not at work. My patient's privacy is first and foremost, whether they know me by my first name or not.
This time, however, it was my childhood friend. And his mum. People I have known for so many years, who I am very close to, and who are very much part of my life. How do I now go about calling him and telling him that his mum's in hospital, not in any state to talk to him or to tell me to do so, after I was the one who treated her.
Do I wait for the hospital to contact him, and hope that he puts two and two together?
Do I make the initial contact, breaking every rule in the protocol book?
Or do I go to my next call as if the person I just treated meant the same to as any of my other patients that day?
Which option would mean that I had treated the patient to the best of my ability, and in the best interests of the patient?
Friendship versus Confidentiality.
What would you do?