Emergency Medical Technicians or Responders (EMTs or EMRs) play an integral role in the health care system and provide potentially lifesaving services to the public. This has become even more evident during the pandemic. The harrowing work of EMTs is commonly under-recognized and underpaid. Not only are they providing a life link for their community members to get safely to advanced medical care, but they also frequently put themselves in unpredictable situations. Most health care workers know where they will be working and what their environment entails; that is not the case for EMTs. They may face hazards that include chemical exposures, high-speed traffic on freeways, violent situations, contagious illnesses and even dangerous pets. Often, little information is provided ahead of time, and they have to proceed cautiously, remaining aware of potential hazards.

This past spring, I had the honor of meeting Jonathan Pinto, a 23-year EMR and paramedic veteran. It was a personal experience with EMTs during an anaphylactic reaction at the age of eight that set the course for his career. Recently, he opened The Institute of Healthcare in San Diego, an EMT training program. His goal is to ensure high standards for future EMTs, not only in their technical skills but also in their interpersonal communication. In his program, Pinto emphasizes every person must be shown the utmost respect and highest level of care, including members of our communities that are struggling with addiction or housing challenges. EMTs are in a position to be important advocates for their patients and you can help them help you. 

What can you do to prepare for emergency situations where EMTs are most likely involved? 

I asked Pinto if he would share things he has learned over the years. Here are some recommendations that can save time and possibly save lives: 

  1. Keep important medical information in one central location. A form called the Vial of Life (www.vialoflife.com) is helpful for this purpose, and you can place it on your fridge. EMTs are trained to look to the refrigerator for such information. 
  2. Make a list of allergies and current medications, including dosages, frequency, when they were started and stopped and if they are taken as prescribed. Also, include any recreational or over-the-counter substances. 
  3. Have paperwork from any recent admissions to the hospital or new diagnosis, including copies or reports from images on hand.
  4. Make a list of any special devices or implants such as a dialysis machine or pacemaker and include associated paperwork. Providing this information can help the EMTs better understand the particulars of such devices. It may be necessary to take you to a hospital that has the capabilities to handle special equipment.
  5. Document any aids used to navigate the world daily and where they are typically located in the home, such as glasses, hearing aids, canes, walkers, and sleep apnea machines. Include anything you would need for staying a few days at the hospital on your list. If possible, (perhaps a loved one can help) collect these items and have them in a bag nearby when the EMTs arrive. EMTs will try to make sure these items go with you to the hospital. 
  6. Provide contact information for one or two people to be informed you are in the hospital.
  7. If you have any pets, it is best to place them in a back room of the house, so they don’t get in the way. 
  8. Share contact information for someone to call to look after any pets. 

How can you best prepare for emergencies outside of your home? 

The best thing you can do is wear medical alert bracelets for pertinent medical conditions. Some conditions that warrant wearing a medical alert bracelet include a history of a stroke or heart attack, diabetes (type I or II), allergies, seizure disorders, drug rehabilitation and dementia. Having this information handy will help the EMTs better understand what could be happening and decrease the time it takes to get appropriate care.

Dr. Jainuddin is a naturopathic doctor with One Life Naturopathic and recently received her EMT certification building on her love for emergency medicine. She can be reached at (442) 256.5963. For more information, visit www.OneLifeNaturopathic.org.

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