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6 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Experience With EMS

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Being an EMT and ski patroller the last three years, I have seen a fair amount of illness and injury. Of those I’ve treated, some have had cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and some more unknown conditions like dysautonomia and CRPS. On top of that, I have my own set of medical conditions. That being said, I have been on both sides of the situation: a patient and a provider. I have had some really good providers and I’ve had some that were really awful.

Problems with emergency medical services (EMS)  generally arise due to a lack of understanding on the part of the medical provider, so here are six things that individuals with chronic illnesses can do to prevent such issues from occurring.

1. Be prepared with information about your condition(s). This can actually be written out in the form of pamphlets, wallet cards, and/or articles or you can verbally explain your condition to your providers. Be prepared to do this clearly and concisely. In the heat of the moment, this may be a challenge for some, so having materials prepared in advanced can be very helpful for everyone involved. You are your own best advocate!

2. Have an updated medication list compiled. Many individuals with chronic illness take medications and/or supplements. Be sure to list everything you are taking. EMTs and medics will ask for the names of all your medications. If you have a list, it makes it easier for the provider to compile the information for the trip sheet because they can just copy it off the paper. Consider keeping an electronic copy on your phone for when you are out and about. It is very prudent to put the medication list and the information of your conditions in one place, so you know where it is in the event of an emergency.

3. Consider a wearing Medic Alert bracelet. This is a really good habit to get into especially if you have conditions that could render you unable to communicate for yourself. There are many different styles and colors out there to make it your own. My alert bracelet is a sporty, silicon, blue/lime green band with a QR code that, when scanned, pulls up an electronic medical record that you can customize with as much or as little information as you want.

4. One of the most crucial thing for both patients and providers is patience and encouraging a environment to teamwork. You could be the very first patient they’ve had with your condition and they may need to take some time to work with you and learn. If you score a provider that is willing to learn, take the opportunity to educate them. Other patients with the same conditions that have them as a provider later down the road will thank you. Who knows? You may even have the same provider at a later time.

5. I always try to maintain a good attitude (even though it doesn’t always work out that way) when dealing with a medical provider during a time of crisis. Everyone with chronic illnesses (or everyone who has ever been sick for that matter), knows it is extremely challenging to be pleasant when you aren’t feeling well. EMS know that if you’re in the back of their ambulance, you are probably having an especially rotten day. You don’t have to be all “sunshine and rainbows,” but if you treat them with respect, you deserve the same in return.

6. Lastly, remember EMTs and paramedics are human. They have their bad days. They may have dealt with something unimaginable prior to come to you. We make mistakes and sometimes at the end of 24-hour shift, we’re just plain tired. Many chronically ill individuals deal with at least one provider that hasn’t helped them, accused them of faking, or was just plain nasty. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

Prepare yourself using some of these tips and hopefully the next time you require the services of EMS, it will be a smoother process!

Originally published: September 27, 2016
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