Hurry Up and Wait

So you chuck the ill patient onto the stretcher, throw some straps over him, bang him into the ambulance. Your partner, the stunt driver known only as “Maverick,” spins you out onto the throughway and mashes on the Faster pedal until it stops going down. The radio is playing “Go, Speed Racer!” as you slam through traffic, taking corners at 45, the straights at 70, and sounding more sirens than they have names for. (Maverick, bless his heart, has subscribed to the two-footed school of driving, where the gas stays floored and corners are managed by tapping the brake with the left foot.)

Mere seconds later, having covered twenty miles, fractured your spine twice, and pounded every piece of unsecured equipment to powder, your rig squeals into the ER on a cloud of blue smoke, drifting sideways into the ambulance bay like a riced-out Honda. Maverick leaps out, throws open the rear doors, and . . .

. . . then stands there scratching his ass for five minutes while you disconnect wires, find a place to perch the monitor, swap over the oxygen to a portable tank, and make sure everything’s clear to pull out the stretcher.


With critical patients — particularly those receiving ALS care — more time can be saved by setting up the patient for transfer prior to arrival than can be saved by driving dangerously. If you’re truly in a “load and go” situation, remember that the clock doesn’t stop just because you crossed the finish line at the parking lot. Whatever the patient needs (surgery, pharmacological care, invasive measures), presumably it wasn’t to wait outside the hospital while you fiddle with things. If seconds really matter, then you should be able to throw open the doors as soon as you stop moving and wheel the patient straight out and into the ED. “But I’m busy with patient care,” you say? Well, if there aren’t enough hands, then decide whether whatever you’re doing is more important than the time you’d save. But if it is, then stop acting like you’re in such a hurry.

The equivalent of this on your initial response would be pulling your boots on and getting out the chute faster, rather than trying to make up the time on the road. But that’s a topic for another day.


  1. NOTHING my paramedic partners do drives me more crazy then forcing me to be “maverick” and try to safely and quickly deliver both them and the patient to the hospital and then standing in the ED bay looking like an ass while they diddle… the paramedic school I am going to has a policy that states in short all treatments short of chest compressions/artificial ventilation stops when the bus pulls into the ED bay in order to deliver the patient to definitive care. It is an objective we are expected to meet by the end of our FI period. I wish more paramedics learned it that way

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