Cheat Sheets

Now and then you see someone with one of those little spiral-bound EMS “pocket guides.” They make sense for paramedics, who have drug dosages and other information-dense (and in some cases, rarely used) protocols that need remembering; but they always seemed a little silly for the EMT-B, who mostly needs to remember not to drop anyone.

There are a handful of things that would be useful to me in a reference, however, and therein lies the rub: preprinted field guides invariably consist 75% of what you already know and are missing 50% of what you actually need. For instance, when I moved two years ago, one of my main concerns was learning the different points-of-entry in the Boston metro area (trauma, STEMI, etc.), a service area which runneth over with so much healthcare that even your hairdresser might be an RN. But I’m not going to find that information in any book I can find on a shelf.

The answer? Homemade references! I made my own cheatsheet by laying out what I needed on the computer (I used Adobe InDesign, but a word processor would work), printing it in foldable handbook size, and gluing and stapling it together into a booklet. This fits unnoticeably in my back pocket and goes everywhere with me during my shift, and it works great — it’s full of exactly what I need and nothing else. My original one has been falling to pieces, so I just recently revised it and made up a new one. I’ve considered laminating it, but I don’t want to make it any thicker, and that would make it difficult to write on for any revisions.

I recommend making your own cheat sheet if you get a chance. You can check out mine here; here’s a couple sample pages as an example.

And the final product:


  1. I really like your home made reference guide! Is there anyway for you to upload more photos or even a copy of it in PDF file? I’m trying to make my own but i’m having a little trouble.Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks -Andrew

    • Andrew, I actually have a PDF linked above —

      I make mine in InDesign and I realize it might be tougher to do without a proper design app. In a word processor, I’d try setting up the page to have the height and width you want (figure that out first obviously), then just using spacing to put everything in the right places. Some apps may be able to create a template that applies to all pages, or at least things like running heads.


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