Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Progress and Old School: Need the best of both

Recently I read of a growing number of fire department EMS personnel no longer using long spinal boards for patient transport. The article cited new studies revealing not only delays in transport issues but others involving patient discomfort, bruising, and other problems resulting from transport on the long, hard boards.

Good points were raised and no doubt based on lot’s of input and study. In the accompanying comments, however, I noted resistance and skepticism shown by some veteran paramedics — and younger EMS folks writing them off as “old timers”. The comments revealed yet another round of old vs new attitudes in both the fire service and EMS, with some balancing the value of new technology against the foundation of experience. Nothing new here, of course.

Every new trend or practice that surfaces in emergency services should balance the skills of first responders using new equipment and techniques with the years of solid in-the-field experience of active veterans.  While some feel these sometimes opposite poles conflict with each other, smart responders draw from both as needed.

I remember when wearing an air pack was considered a practice only for wimps. Some felt it delayed time needed for entry for search and rescue or extinguishment and there were rarely if ever enough of the devices to go around. What few air packs on scene were stored in an outside engine or truck compartment and contained within large black suitcase-like container. Today it’s rare to see a firefighter without one.

Then there was the advent of Nomex hoods that were to be donned to protect ears, neck and face. Veteran firefighters resisted these because they could no longer use their ears as “radar”, turning heads from left to right to determine the direction to unseen flames based on radiant heat. Today they’re standard issue.

Firefighters were once used to jumping on a tailboard and buttoning up their coats while en route, using one hand to hang on to a chrome-coated safety rail. Today firefighters are required to not only be seated in a provided jump seat before the engine moved, but to have their seat belts buckled as well.

All of those past fears and skeptical attitudes have long been replaced by successful implementation and acceptance and continue to save lives and reduce injuries. Where implementation is most successful, the new practices are periodically tempered by previous experience, providing a balanced application of the latest-and-greatest new gadgets, procedures and practices along with the benefit of experience from those who have it..

So consider tolerating us old timers and fuddy-duddies when you can. We know the world changes and new ideas help us evolve to better serve our fellow citizens, but once in awhile we may be able to reach into our old bag of tricks as needed to help reach the objective at hand.

"That's not the way we've always done it," can be a quick road to obsolesence to be sure.  But if you're willing to look, there are still a few valuable treasures left packed away in the attic.

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