Category Archives: Culture

Cultural implications in EMS

Measuring EMS: Patient Satisfaction

As a paramedic, I become discouraged when so-called academic literature, like that of McLean, Maio, Spaite, and Garrison (2002), Spaite (1993), and Stiell et al. (2008), turns up describing what little impact the emergency medical services, especially advanced life support procedures, have on patients. Instead of dismissing these writings, I tend to focus within the view of my own practice and experience on how I feel that I impact the patients that I see. This exercise allows me to confront the literature in a specific and meaningful manner that might be used in the future to publish a dissenting view. This discussion gives me a lens through which to dissect the import I feel that the emergency medical services has as a public safety entity.

Public safety is typically viewed as the amalgamation of police, fire, and emergency medical services. In all three, the public seems to have the idea that we stop threats before they take hold; however, we typically respond to the aftermath, the police to investigate crimes that have already occurred, the fire department to conflagrations that have already caused damage, and emergency medical services to traumatic incidents or medical conditions that have already caused distress. There are exceptions. The police have learned to integrate crime prevention techniques, the fire department has learned to adopt a fire prevention model of service, and the emergency medical services in many areas support preventative health clinics, such as community immunization, blood pressure checks, and CPR and first aid classes. The public, I feel, has a skewed perception of each one of these departments (e.g. the police should stop crime in progress, the fire department should save their house, and emergency medical systems should save their loved one whenever called upon to do so). Any deviation from the public perception is, in their minds, a failure of the system.

I ask myself, “What is that we, as the emergency medical services, do that really matters?” For the public, it seems that the answer can be given two-fold: “save me” and “make me feel better.” El Sayed (2012) describes the manner in which both aspects, outcomes and patient satisfaction, can be measured, as both are essential. Unfortunately, El Sayed does not go into much detail regarding patient satisfaction scores, except as a means of measure. In contrast, I feel that the most benefit that we offer patients is that we alleviate suffering. From a confident, yet compassionate, bed-side manner to effective and efficient treatment modalities, emergency medical personnel can prove to be the mediator between illness or injury and definitive hospital-based care. Emergency medical providers should be knowledgeable enough about the hospital to calm and educate patients as to what to expect. Further, medical knowledge allows the provider to restore a choking person’s breathing, to stop an epileptic seizure, and to minimize a crash victim’s pain. In my opinion, these measures are just as important, if not more, to quality management as mortality and morbidity. Again, El Sayed mentions the generality of patient satisfaction; however, with the abundance of competing literature questioning the effectiveness of the emergency medical services, patient satisfaction should be expounded upon as a legitimate and important aspect of quality patient care.


El Sayed, M. J. (2012). Measuring quality in emergency medical services: a review of clinical performance indicators. Emergency Medicine International, 2012, 1-7, doi:10.1155/2012/161630

McLean, S. A., Maio, R. F., Spaite, D. W., & Garrison, H. G. (2002). Emergency medical services outcomes research: evaluating the effectiveness of prehospital care. Prehospital Emergency Care, 6(2), S52–S56. doi:10.3109/10903120209102683

Spaite, D. W. (1993). Outcome analysis in EMS systems. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 22(8), 1310–1311. doi:10.1016/S0196-0644(05)80113-1

Stiell, I. G., Nesbitt, L. P., Pickett, W., Munkley, D., Spaite, D. W., Banek, J., Field, B., … Wells, G. A., for the OPALS Study Group. (2008). The OPALS Major Trauma Study: impact of advanced life-support on survival and morbidity. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178(9), 1141-1152. doi:10.1503/cmaj.071154

Practical Use of Strategic Planning

 In this writing, I will describe the similarities and differences of planning versus strategic planning, and I will use these concepts to compare and contrast two very different strategic organizational plans within the health care industry. In my view, strategic planning should be bold, effective, prescient, and ethical, and the reader should keep these attributes in mind when considering the plans for themselves.

Planning is described as the directed implementation of the “blueprint for the future” (McConnell, 2012), or the means of expressing the organizational vision in order to achieve the organizational goals; whereas, strategic planning institutes planning with a consideration and focus towards the forces, whether or not controllable, that might both help and hinder the desired outcomes (Casciani, 2012). One example of an uncontrollable force, especially in health care, are the expectations of the patient or client. Crawford et al. (2002) provides a discussion on the increased propensity to involve patient views in the strategic planning of health care organizations, though at the time of the writing, there was no evidence as to the effect that the involvement of these views provided. Caution must be exercised when eliciting input from the client or patient. For instance, many patients complain about the amount of time that it takes at emergency departments for test results to be returned. As impressive as it would be to have test results returned within just a few minutes, this should not be attempted to the detriment of the accuracy of the tests. Perhaps, in this instance, considering the role of point-of-care testing might be more beneficial than attempting a costly overhaul of the laboratory processes. Approaching problems as they apply to an open system, looking from outside in, provides a better perspective than regarding the organization as an isolated microcosm.

To be effective, strategic planning must be all-encompassing and address the goals of each functional unit, or microsystem, to bring them into alignment with the plans of the macro organization (Kosnik & Espinosa, 2003). To wit, as an organization can only be measured by the outcomes of the integrated microsystems, an analysis of each or any functional unit can tell much about the goals and visions guiding the organization.

Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center

The Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center (Children’s; 2006), located in Seattle Washington, provides the first of two strategic plans I will review. On the opening pages, as with most strategic plans, the organization defines its mission and vision, and they are certainly bold statements including the elimination of pediatric disease and being the best children’s specialty care center. The only thing that I wish was stated on these first pages is some sort of organizational value statement. The value statement does much to intertwine an ethical approach to the mission and vision. However, I do not doubt the ethical approach Children’s relies on, which is evident by the whole of the plan.

Children’s (2006) is a true regional medical center that serves much of the northwest portion of the United States, including Alaska. An argument could be made that Children’s serves such a vital role to the region that it is too important to fail, yet the organization still seeks to ensure financial stability and “secure Children’s financial future” (p. 5). In health care, especially in today’s political climate, the future of funding sources are unclear, and the most ethical approach to the organizational delivery of health care is to provide it without burden to the community it serves. Children’s exemplifies this approach by maintaining charitable foundation to “expand philanthropy to the community” (p. 16), as well as ensuring sound and responsible investments and maximizing efficiency under cost controls while still ensuring quality and safety improvements.

Additionally, Children’s (2006) focuses its efforts at being the best, which means attracting the best clinicians, performing cutting-edge research, and providing the best care to achieve the best outcomes possible setting the standard for health care across the nation. Children’s holds a bold, effective, prescient, and ethical strategic plan that outlines some goals of many of the microsystems within the organization.

U.C. Davis Health System

The U.C. Davis Health System (2011) strategic plan, unlike the Children’s (2006) plan, immediately outlines the values, or “guiding principles” (p. 3), of the organization. Financially, however, U.C. Davis Health Systems seems less focused on self-reliance, financial security, and community involvement than Children’s and more focused on their stated goal of socially responsible environmental stewardship.

Although the U.C. Davis Health System (2011) strategic plan uses the word bold on the front cover, I find it to be less so and without many specifics and, instead, relying on generalized language that might promote the vision but does nothing to engage it.

It is apparent in the U.C. Davis Health System (2011) strategic plan that they wish to become a leader in many different areas while attracting the best workforce. This is a commendable, bold, and ethical position that helps to ensure quality and safety in the delivery of health care at U.C. Davis Health Systems.


Many different variables drive the production of strategic plans, including politics, community, workforce, investments, geography, and the current status quo of health care delivery. Many of these differences can be seen immediately when comparing various strategic plans, yet by virtue of being a health care organization, many of the stated goals will be similar. Without being informed as to the climate of the organizational operation, it is difficult to appreciate the potential each plan has in regard to success or failure.

As a health care manager, the strategic plan is an obvious resource when deciding on possible employment. As a potential administrator, the strategic plan offers a view into how the administration seeks to direct the operation of the organization. Being responsible to help implement these plans, one must consider the alignment of his or her personal values with those of the organization. A manager might find it difficult to lead in an environment that demonstrates and promotes a different value system.

Strategic plans offer a significant advantage to organizations during their growth providing a clearly written prescription as to what is important to the organization so that it may guide decision-makers to develop and enhance programs to provide a cohesive effort towards future prosperity and relevance.


Casciani, S. J. (2012). Strategic planning. In S. B. Buchbinder & N. H. Shanks, Introduction to healthcare management (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.; pp. 3-23). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. (2006). Our children deserve the best: Laying the foundation for the next 100 years (Strategic plan overview). Retrieved from

Crawford, M. J., Rutter, D., Manley, C., Weaver, T., Bhui, K., Fulop, N., & Tyrer, P. (2002). Systematic review of involving patients in the planning and development of health care. British Medical Journal, 325(7375), 1263-1267. doi:10.1136/bmj.325.7375.1263

Kosnik, L. K. & Espinosa, J. A. (2003). Microsystems in health care: Part 7. The microsystem as a platform for merging strategic planning and operations. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety, 29(9), 452-459.

McConnell, C. R. (2012). Planning. In S. B. Buchbinder & N. H. Shanks, Introduction to healthcare management (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.; pp. 131-139). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

University of California, Davis Health System. (2011). 2011-2016 strategic plan: Creating a healthier world through bold innovation. Retrieved from strategicplan/2011StrategicPlan.pdf

Prior Proper Planning …

… Prevents Poor Performance

I am in the midst of planning an ad hoc merger of a number of local emergency medical service agencies into a single regional provider to reduce overall costs while maximizing revenue, improve training and the delivery of care, and to streamline the operational processes that support our providers in the field. Unfortunately, I have found that there are many obstacles that need to be dealt with at every step before moving on to the next. My research has certainly opened my eyes to developing a useful approach to these problems.

Planning “[provides] the appropriate focus and direction for … organizations” (Zuckerman, 2006, p. 3). Without planning, organizations risk stagnation and obsolescence. For any organization to succeed (and continue to do so), the strategy needs to focus both on the contemporary traditional needs as well as those anticipated in the future, but this focus needs to be comprehensive. Bartling (1997) writes of 25 different pitfalls any health care organization might face when considering strategic planning. These 25 pitfalls are just some of the issues I hope to avoid.

One of the largest difficulties in planning for emergency medical systems, however, is the sense of ‘fiefdom’, or an assertion of organizational ownership — in a truly feudal sense. A fiefdom is a literal power trip. In this area, there are 10 towns with an average of two ambulances each, and each department’s administration will fight tooth and nail to keep the organization from outgrowing them. What is interesting about the area is that many of the members of one department work for at least two of the other departments, also. This is because the pay is so meager they have to work as many hours as possible, and there is no chance of working more than 32 hours at any one service in any given week. The pay is low as is the quality of care. This needs to change, but how do I create an amalgumated organization from the bits and pieces that I have to work with? Add to that my lack of formal authority in this process. My vision is to reduce the number of ambulances by staffing eight ambulances at all times and tactically positioning them around the region. This alone would create 48 well-paid jobs, using the same 40 people who currently job share across organizational lines.

In reviewing the available resources, I have learned that there is no particular process or flow-chart pathway to effective planning (Bartling, 1997; Begun & Kaissi, 2005; Zuckerman, 2006). Critical forward thinking is needed, instead. Some of the particular issues that Bartling (1997) discusses and I foresee might be particular to my planning process are: inadequate planning, short-sightedness, underestimating the complexity of the process, post-merger angst, analysis paralysis, and lack of evaluative criteria, to name a few. Politics plays a large role in many of these issues I mention.

Inadequate planning, short-sightedness, and a lack of evaluative criteria are closely related. I see in the present that the system does not work as well as it should (short-sightedness), and I want to develop a plan that can be implemented immediately (probably suffering inadequate planning). This would leave me with a fragmented system devoid of vision and, therefore, crippled from improving (lacking that evaluative criteria). These are pitfalls that I need to avoid. These issues would give rise to the others dooming my effort to failure and, possibly, leaving the system in even worse shape than it began.

Perhaps, my only chance of fulfilling this process is to first perform a limited situational assessment by identifying the mission, vision, and values of all of the stakeholders and show how a streamlined process can better fulfill their visions (Casciani, 2012). By gaining stakeholder support, I might better leverage my idea against those who fear change.


Bartling, A. (1997). 25 pitfalls of strategic planning. Healthcare Executive, 12(5), 20–23.

Begun, J. & Kaissi, A. (2005). An exploratory study of healthcare strategic planning in two metropolitan areas. Journal of Healthcare Management, 50(4), 264–274.

Casciani, S. J. (2012). Strategic planning. In S. B. Buckbinder & N. H. Shanks (Eds.), Introduction to healthcare management (Custom ed.; pp. 3-23). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Zuckerman, A. (2006). Advancing the state of the art in healthcare strategic planning. Frontiers of Health Services Management, 23(2), 3–15.

Leadership: Determining the Best Approach

 The true value of leadership is empowerment, or the ability to promote those traits through the chain of command for subordinates to use to effectively make decisions that are in the spirit of the vision of the leader (Buchbinder, Shanks, & McConnell, 2012; Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991; Wieck, Prydun, & Walsh, 2002). When leaders make decisions, the focus is not on the myopic view of the here and now but reflects the nature of ethics and vision promoting the endeavor (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991).

Buchbinder, Shanks, and McConnell (2012), discuss various strategies and attitudes employed to both lead and manage the health care workforce. Though each of the styles presented are effectively used in certain scenarios, many managers and ineffective leaders misuse these styles due to misplaced attitudes, trust, and motives. These styles are authoritarian, bureaucratic, participative, theory Z, laissez-faire, and situational. The authoritarian and bureaucratic styles are closely related as dictatorial and at risk for involving micromanagement; however, authoritarians tend to be motivated by their responsibilities, whereas bureaucrats tend to disregard their responsibilities. The participative and theory Z styles are more democratic and egalitarian describing the usefulness of a majority opinion or consensus before moving forward. Though these styles could result in indecision, they are best implemented when a leader has ultimate decision-making capabilities and relies on his or her subordinates for input. Laissez-faire leadership is typically characterized as the hands off approach. Laissez-faire leadership, when used correctly, relies on the specialized training or focused scope of the work of the subordinates and lends guidance only when necessary. Laissez-faire leadership, however, can provide refuge for a lazy manager. Situational leadership is the use of all or some of the styles described above depending on the specific circumstances of a given situation. For instance, providing guidance to a new employee might benefit from an authoritarian approach; however, deciding on the best approach to implementing a new process might benefit from a participative style of leadership.

In the emergency medical services, a move has been made over the last decade to separate from the authoritarian leadership of the fire service. In my opinion (due to the gross lack of research within both the fire and emergency medical services), the attitudes of the fire service leadership do not correspond well with the manner in which paramedics wish to be led. As paramedics are formally educated and expected to perform as skilled clinicians in the field, they tend to operate independently and view their supervisors more as a resource tool than as tactical or clinical decision-makers. Combination departments, or those that operate both fire and emergency medical services, would do well with developing situational leadership skills to guide both operations (Mujtaba & Sungkhawan, 2009). Though paramedics may utilize an authoritarian style of leadership during an emergency call (and, do well to follow such styles in these environments), during normal day-to-day operations, paramedics respond much better towards a laissez-faire, or indirect, style of leadership that allows for independent critical thinking (Buchbinder, Shanks, & McConnell, 2012; Freshman & Rubino, 2002). For example, during a call, I expect that when I direct my crew to perform a certain task that it is completed immediately; however, between calls when I might say that in a particular scenario a certain intervention is necessary, I expect some discussion to aid in the learning of my crews and to help develop and hone their critical thinking skills.

True leadership has its own rewards, primarily, empowering those who follow to synthesize the traits of their leaders and evolve into leaders, themselves. This, in addition to watching your own visions take root and flourish.


Buchbinder, S. B., Shanks, N. H., & McConnell, C. R. (2012). Introduction to healthcare management (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Freshman, B. & Rubino, L. (2002). Emotional intelligence: a core competency for health care administrators. Health Care Manager, 20(4), 1-9. Retrieved from

Kirkpatrick, S. A. & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: Do traits matter? Academy of Management Executive, 5(2), 48-60. doi:10.5465/AME.1991.4274679

Mujtaba, B. G. & Sungkhawan, J. (2009). Situational leadership and diversity management coaching skills. Journal of Diversity Management, 4(1), 1-55. Retrieved from

Wieck, K. L., Prydun, M., & Walsh, T. (2002). What the emerging workforce wants in its leaders. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 34(3), 283-288. doi:10.1111/j.1547-5069.2002.00283.x

Quality and Safety Measurement

In regards to the incident surrounding the death of Josie King (Josie King Foundation, 2002), there have been many great improvements in the delivery of care at Johns Hopkins (Niedowski, 2003; Zimmerman, 2004). Those aside, and if I was faced with having to develop performance measures of quality and safety in the context of such a tragedy, I would strive to ensure that my measures were accurate and valid to identify areas of grave concern where Johns Hopkins would do good to improve.

First, I would consider measuring the structure of the care delivered. In Josie’s case, a medical response team responded when it was identified that she was in the midst of a medical crisis. The first measurement would serve to identify the availability of such teams and the adequacy of the team’s staffing. The measure would indicate the response time of the team and the licensing and certification level of each team member.

Second, I would consider measuring processes that might have contributed to the death of Josie King. In this instance, Josie was administered a narcotic while suffering acute dehydration. The administration of this medication was contrary to the physician’s orders regarding pain medication for this patient. This measure would indicate the appropriate use of narcotic analgesia in patients faced with contraindications, such as acute dehydration or shock. This measure would be a cross tabulation of recent vital signs and laboratory results.

Third, I would consider measuring outcomes. In cases where pediatric patients are downgraded from the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to a general ward, any adverse condition should prompt an upgrade back to the PICU. This measure would identify the number of cases in each reporting period that any recently downgraded patient was upgraded back to the PICU. This measure should account for the time between a crisis and upgrade along with a statement indicating the cause of the crisis and resultant upgrade. This measure should be augmented by a mortality and morbidity subset involving any patients who were downgraded from PICU.

My considerations for these processes are to determine if general ward nurses should be administering any medications on standing order or if there should be a requirement to ensure that any medication administered to a general ward patient is explicitly written in the patient’s chart at the time of administration. Also, nurses should be acutely aware of the contraindications of any medications that they are administering. The process measure will, hopefully, identify misuse of narcotic analgesia and any failure to assess the patient for other possible causes of distress before assuming the distress is in response to pain. Ultimately, a more timely and efficient use of medical response teams should result, which would avail physicians and more experienced nurses to the original patient care team. This should lead to an open discussion of how to better manage the patient post crisis. Also, a greater understanding of medication administration concepts should result, benefiting all patients.


Josie King Foundation. (2002). About: What happened. Retrieved from

Niedowski, E. (2003, December 15). From tragedy, a quest for safer care; Cause: After medical mistakes led to her little girl’s death, Sorrel King joined with Johns Hopkins in a campaign to spare other families such anguish. The Sun, pp. 1A. Retrieved from

Zimmerman, R. (2004, May 18). Doctors’ new tool to fight lawsuits: Saying ‘I’m sorry’. Wall Street Journal, pp. A1. Retrieved from

The Patient Perspective: Patient Safety

The Speak Up materials provided by The Joint Commission (2011a, 2011b) do a great service in succinctly illustrating the need to be educated about health care issues. Patients and their families have a unique perspective to understanding their (or, their family member’s) health (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). Although physicians, nurses, and allied health providers are responsible for providing quality care, it remains the domain of the patient to express uncertainty or provide additional information to guide the provider. Ultimately, the patient or surrogate decision-maker must provide consent for treatment and must do so with full understanding. There are times, however, that the scope of treatment is so drastic, emergent, or specialized that the patient may not have the facilities to gain a full understanding of care needing to be rendered (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). This is the exception.

In the case of Josie King (Josie King Foundation, 2002; Niedowski, 2003; Zimmerman, 2004), which I elaborated on last week, Sorrel King, Josie’s mother, was educated about her daughter’s condition and spoke up as The Joint Commission recommends. Unfortunately, this case turned into tragedy not because Sorrel King did wrong but because the nurse disregarded her apprehension. This was tantamount to malpractice and no patient or family member could have prevented this, save for using force to physically prevent the administration of medicine. According to MacDonald (2009), there are nurses that believe “[patients] have no say and that medications are the domain of doctors, leaving the nurse and the patient to trust that the doctors would do the right thing” (p. 29).

Perhaps things were slightly different, however. As MacDonald (2009) explains, patient’s who are knowledgeable of their illness and take an active role in their health care decisions add another layer of safety, especially when considering medication action, reaction, and interaction. Medication prescription errors are numerous within health care, and as in the case of Josie King, improved communication between the physicians, nurses, and Sorrel King might have prevented Josie from being administered the narcotic and instead receiving the fluid she so desparately needed (Vincent & Coulter, 2002).

Health care should be patient-centric as it remains the responsibility of the patient to be educated about the care they receive and to provide consent for that care and treatment to be rendered. An uneducated patient does add risk, but sometimes this is unavoidable. It is in these instances that special care should be taken until a full medical history can be attained.


The Joint Commission. (2011a, March 7). Speak up: Prevent errors in your care [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

The Joint Commission. (2011b, April 5). Speak up: Prevent the spread of infection [Video podcast]. Retrieved from–prevent-the-spread-of-infection/

Josie King Foundation. (2002). About: What happened. Retrieved from

Macdonald, M. (2009). Pilot study: The role of the hospitalized patient in medication administration safety. Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, 6(3), 28-31. Retrieved from

Niedowski, E. (2003, December 15). From tragedy, a quest for safer care; Cause: After medical mistakes led to her little girl’s death, Sorrel King joined with Johns Hopkins in a campaign to spare other families such anguish. The Sun, pp. 1A. Retrieved from

Vincent, C. A. & Coulter, A. (2002). Patient safety: what about the patient? Quality & Safety in Health Care, 11(1), 76–80. doi:10.1136/qhc.11.1.76

Zimmerman, R. (2004, May 18). Doctors’ new tool to fight lawsuits: Saying ‘I’m sorry’. Wall Street Journal, pp. A1. Retrieved from

Motivation: A Career that I Enjoy

I am lucky to work in a career that I absolutely enjoy. As a paramedic in the emergency medical services (EMS), I am called upon to help those in my community in the worst of circumstances to help them when they feel helpless. There are drawbacks, however. Many people rely on EMS for problems that even they do not view as emergent, and others just plainly abuse the system. Still, I enjoy being the one called upon to help. My primary motivations are my sense of community, my ability to reduce suffering, and my ability to raise the standard of care within the system. Maslow (1943) includes some of the earliest accepted work on motivational theory, and more contemporary work is based on the acceptance, rejection or modification of his theories, so I will focus on Maslow to begin. My needs, according to Maslow, are not as important to motivation. Need fulfillment will not motivate me to perform; however, a lack of fulfillment may prevent me from performing. This is especially true for Maslow’s lower-order needs. Maslow discusses how emergency situations can “obscure the ‘higher’ motivations [and create] a lopsided view of human capacities and human nature” (p. 375), and while my career is focused on responding to emergencies, this may hold true for me. While Maslow’s theory is not wholly accepted motivational schema (Robbins & Judge, 2010), EMS managers, and other public safety managers, would do well to understand this exception to motivational theory.

Many EMS managers, it seems, subscribe to McGregor’s (1957/2000) theory X without understanding the ramifications or the competing theory Y. There is a deep-seated belief that the workforce is lazy and will do anything possible to undermine the operation. This results in micromanagement tactics that seem to promote an unwillingness to promote the goals of the employer. McGregor highlights this and cautions that it a result of poor management technique, not a cause that is easily rectified by the chosen technique.

Other theories, such as goal-setting, equity theory, and expectancy theory, as described in Robbins and Judge (2010), are all lacking in one particular constant: there is no constant in human behavior. There are a number of ways that a single motivational factor might influence a particular person on any particular day. For any theory to always be true in every situation, it would cease to be a theory and become a law. This being said, as managers, we need to measure the importance of certain tasks and focus our efforts on communicating this importance to the workforce. It is the manner of this communication that will tend to fail or succeed, based on both the needs of the manager and the needs of the employee at the moment the message is passed.


Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396. doi:10.1037/h0054346

McGregor, D. (2000). The Human Side of Enterprise (Reprinted from Adventure in thought and action: Proceedings of the fifth anniversary convocation of the School of Industrial Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1957, April 9. Cambridge, MA: MIT School of Industrial Management). Reflections, 2(1), 6-14. doi:10.1162/152417300569962

Robbins, S. P. & Judge, T. A. (2010). Motivation concepts. Essentials of organizational behavior (pp. 62-79). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Physician-assisted Suicide

I have always maintained that the best thing that I have ever done for a patient was to hold their hand as they died; however, there are few scenarios that I can posit where I would ever cause the death of another, and I would never do it in my capacity as a medical professional. In the State of Connecticut, assisting a patient in their suicide is illegal (Kasprak, 2003; Saunders & Smith, 2010). Saunders and Smith (2010) describe the use of “semantic ploys” (para. 3) in arguing for physician-assisted suicide and how the court deemed the “issue rests with the legislature, not with the court” (para 4).

Two states have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide, Oregon and Washington (Death with Dignity Act, 1997; Death with Dignity Act, 2008). The other 48 states either have laws forbidding assisted suicide, such as Connecticut, rely on common law, or have no laws permitting or forbidding the practice (Kasprak, 2003). Personally, my thoughts on the matter are clearly reflected in my opening statement. More compelling, however, is a recent discussion on the discontinuation of implanted cardiac devices in patients with a desire to “refuse continued life-sustaining therapy” (Kapa, Mueller, Hayes, & Asirvatham, 2010, p. 989). Many of the respondants to this study viewed the discontinuation of pacemakers akin to physician-assisted suicide, whereas less felt the termination of cardioverter-defibrillator therapy was an ethical issue. Oddly, lawyers indicated less problems discontinuing therapy than did physicians.

There are conditions that are so intractably painful and wrought with suffering that I would not even consider thinking less of a person suffering such a malady who took their own life. Death, for many people, is a fear beyond fear, and for a person (of considerable sound mind) to choose death as a viable alternative to such suffering, I commend their bravery and choose not to judge them negatively. No physician or other health care provider should cause the death of a person directly, but acknowledging the patient’s will to die is another matter. In lieu of providing a chemical means of ending life, a physician could, in my mind, counsel a patient on the means and methods that might be viewed as more effective and humane than other means which might result in unwanted suffering. I do believe that a person has the right to choose an alternative to a surely painful and agonizing death, regardless of the presence of depression. If a person is suffering from depression because of a terminal illness that is causing physical suffering, it is hard to imagine this person will resolve the depression before succumbing to the causal disease process. In these cases, the person has the right to choose a more dignified death. For those cases where the person is incapacitated and cannot make health care decisions, I feel that any friend or family member, or a consensus of available friends and family members, should be able to make the decision to continue or discontinue life-sustaining measures. Even if the decision is wrong for the patient, most of the time the decision is for the benefit of the family and friends and lacks medical relevance aside from resource management, though there are spiritual, emotional, and moral considerations that the next of kin may face which are no less relevant.

Personally, I grant any person permission to end my life if they see me engulfed in flame or if taken on the battlefield by an enemy known for public torture. Beyond these two circumstances, I will always choose to live so long as I have my thoughts. I have heard some people intimate that they would wish to die if they were conscious but perpetually paralyzed (i.e. locked-in syndrome); however, I am not so sure that I would want to die just for lacking the ability to communicate with others. I would want to view the world, though, perhaps by television or radio. I am too curious as to what comes next for the world. As we interfere with the dying process, it does make sense that we address the morality in which we do this. It does not seem right to have brain dead patients connected to ventilators and feeding tubes forever. It’s Orwellian.


Death with Dignity Act of 1997, O.R.S. 127.800 et seq. (1997).

Death with Dignity Act of 2009, R.C.W. 70.245 (2008).

Kapa, S., Mueller, P. S., Hayes, D. L., & Asirvatham, S. J. (2010). Perspectives on withdrawing pacemaker and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapies at end of life: Results of a survey of medical and legal professionals and patients. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85(11), 981-990. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0431

Kasprak, J. (2003, July 9). Assisted suicide (OLR Research Report No. 2003-R-0515). Retrieved from

Saunders, W. L. & Smith, M. R. (2010, June 21). Assisted-suicide advocates fail in Connecticut. National Review Online. Retrieved from

Codes of Ethics

Of the three ethical codes presented by Lewis and Tamparo (2007), I align myself most with the Principles of Medical Ethics: American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA promotes honesty, integrity, compassion, respect, and most importantly, responsibility. In all manners of occupation, it is virtuous to remain honest; this is paramount in medicine. Physicians, nurses, paramedics, and other health professionals may make mistakes during their career, and it is important that these mistakes be corrected as soon as possible and understood to promote practices that may minimize the same mistake from happening. Honesty leads to integrity. Integrity is a hallmark of professionalism and, in conjunction with honesty, promotes trust. Having compassion and respect for patients regardless of political, societal, economic, or other divisions allows a provider to actually care for his or her patients rather than just deal with them. As a paramedic, I try to be as trustworthy and caring as possible to each and every patient I see. Ultimately, I understand my responsibility to my community, to fellow clinicians and technicians, to patients, and to myself. I hold ultimate responsibility for my actions and inactions, and I take care to not let these adversely effect the perception others hold of me as a professional. The AMA expects this of all physicians, and as an extension of the physicians I work for, I must strive to meet the same demands.

The Hippocratic Oath is dated in its language and demands. Though the oath can be approached as symbolism, the metaphor can be lost on some. I appreciate the Hippocratic Oath for what it is (a foundation for the ethical practice of medicine), but contemporary words, meanings, and application serve me better.

I find the Code of Ethics of the American Association of Medical Assistants lacking in context, applicability, and substance when adopted for paramedicine, my chosen occupation; therefore, I do not align as well with this code as I do with the previously mentioned codes of ethics.

Codes of ethics provide baseline philosophies that serve to direct the actions of groups. By ascribing to such, the professional belonging to such a group allows the code to guide moral judgments when the answer is unclear. In medicine, this is especially true. Medical professionals deal with life and death decisions which stretch the boundaries of personal moral beliefs. By ascribing to a notion of a slightly higher directive than one’s self, the professional can remove his- or herself from the situation with more clarity and less bias.

My personal ethics are bound by a sense of personal liberty and the responsibility of that liberty. Without responsibility, there are no consequences. Without consequence, there is no learning. I like to learn so that I may be the best paramedic that I can to the next patient in my care. For me, it is always about the next patient; they deserve the best that I can offer.


Lewis, M. A. & Tamparo, C. D. (2007). Codes of ethics. In Medical law, ethics, and bioethics for the health professional (6th ed.; pp. 241-243). Philadelphia, P.A.: F. A. Davis.

Patient Safety Considerations for EMS

 In the out-of-hospital emergency care setting, patient safety is paramount. Initially, victims of trauma or illness are already suffering in an uncontrolled environment. It is this same environment where first responders, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics must operate to stabilize and transport the victim to the hospital, a more controlled environment. Unfortunately, there is little research in the area of patient safety in this setting (Meisel, Hargarten, & Vernick, 2008; Paris & O’Conner, 2008).


Focusing on patient safety and developing processes to ensure optimal safety would allow the study of inherently dangerous, yet potentially beneficial therapies, such as rapid sequence intubation where the clinician uses a series of medications to rapidly sedate and paralyze a critical patient for ease of inserting a breathing tube. Focusing on safety, an EMS department in Maryland successfully instituted such a program (Sullivan, King, Rosenbaum, & Smith, 2010).

With more research in this area, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can improve the care they seek to deliver to their patients.


There are many challenges facing EMS as they seek to deliver safe and effective care to their patients. Motor vehicle accidents (including air transportation accidents), dropped patients, medication and dosage errors, other inappropriate care, and assessment errors all contribute to the number of adverse events in the EMS out-of-hospital care setting (Meisel et al., 2008). Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to identify both the existence and the cause of each event (Meisel et al., 2008; Paris et al., 2008). Additionally, there are adverse events that are impossible to track, such as the iatrogenic exposure to a pathogen. It would be very difficult to distinguish how and when a patient was first exposed to the infecting pathogen without considering community-acquired infections and hospital-acquired infections, which are both equally difficult to ascertain (Taigman, 2007).

Strategies for improvement

As EMS seeks to increase the professionalism among its ranks, the stakeholders must acknowledge responsibility for providing evidence-based processes to ensure patient safety.


Meisel, Z. F., Hargarten, S., & Vernick, J. (2008, October). Addressing prehospital patient safety using the science of injury prevention and control.Prehospital Emergency Care, 12(4), 4-14.

Paris, P. M. & O’Connor, R. E. (2008, January). A national center for EMS provider and patient safety: helping EMS providers help us. Prehospital Emergency Care, 12(1), 92-94.

Sullivan, R. J., King, B. D., Rosenbaum, R. A., & Shiuh, T. (2010, January). RSI: the first two years. One agency’s experience implementing an RSI protocol. EMS Magazine, 39(1), 34-51.

Taigman, M. (2007, July). We don’t mean to hurt patients. EMS Magazine, 52(4), 36-42.