History Channel

One of the big differences between the transport gig and the rescue side is in conversation.

Running rescue, we’re concerned with Information – “When did this problem start?” “What makes it worse/better?”, that sort of thing. Questions designed to elicit information we can pass on to the receiving facility to give the docs and nurses a better handle on treating the patient.

On the transport side, things are quite different. We’re picking up the patient from a facility already, where each and every doc who’s poked his head into the patient room has already asked the same questions over and over. Consequently you can tell when a patient is reciting the answers by rote. Oh, occasionally our Bambulance Guy questions are somewhat different from the script followed by the hospital personnel – for instance, I always ask if a patient is allergic to anything, whereas scrubs usually ask if they’re allergic to any medicines. Once in a while this pans a useful nugget of info for the receiving facility.

I learned this from transporting a patient, who I saw again in passing later in the week. She looked as though she’d lost weight, so I asked her if she’d been eating well. “No!” she replied. “Most of my meals have onions in ’em.” Turns out she was allergic to onions, but nobody ever asked.

With transports, we not only pick up the patient, but a complete set of medical records, labs, EKGs, x-rays, and so forth. The medical part is mostly done – we do it again, somewhat differently as I said, but in a cursory way – and the rest of the transport can, unlike with rescue transports, be spent in simple conversation.

Now, I’ve been with medics who speak with the patients a few moments, and then plop down in what is known as the “captain’s chair” – I have no idea why – and fill out their reports during the ride. This chair is situated against the cab of the ambulance facing the rear of the vehicle. When you’re sitting in this chair you have a good view of the patient, but they’re lying in the cot facing the rear of the vehicle. In that position you are behind them – they can’t see you and it discourages talking. The trip is a silent one.

I prefer the bench seat, meself. Next to the patient, face-to-face. They may converse if they wish, or remain silent – up to them, really. Most do wish to talk, though, and bambulance folk who avoid this are really, to my mind, missing out on something Keen.

An 80-something gentleman:

“So, sir, are you retired, or…?”

“Yeah. I retired from the Navy. I was a gunner’s mate.”

“Well! May I say, “Thank you”, sir! We appreciate your service to the country. What was your job, then?”

His eyes twinkled and a big, “Whaddya think?” grin spread over his face.

“Sinking Nazis!” he said, and proceeded to tell some amazing stories.

A woman in her 90’s, peering out the back windows:

“Look at all this road construction!”

“Yes, ma’am. We’re passing near the shopping mall, and it’s a mess!” The mall was built when I was starting grade school.

“It used to be a field. My children and I would pick blackberries…”

A gentleman in his late seventies, who winced at a pothole:

“Sorry about the bumpy ride, sir.”

“That’s all right. What road are we on?”

I peered out the back, across four lanes to read the street sign, and told him.

“Used to walk down this road to school. ‘Course, it was a one-lane dirt road…”

I’ve heard some medics complain that they “have to listen to some old story”. To me, the conversations seem more of a perk. You don’t always luck into them, but when you do, it makes the job better.


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