After three years as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in metropolitan Boston, the sight and sound of an approaching ambulance still quickens my pulse. But my EMT trainers cautioned me not to drive recklessly while using lights and sirens, because it’s embarrassing and tragic when reckless driving leads EMTs to need rescuing themselves.
Speeding wouldn’t have necessarily saved any of my patients’ lives, either, according to an article in Slate magazine. The article cites a recent study in Annals of Emergency Medicine that shows no association between the survival of serious trauma patients and the amount of time emergency medical services took to get them to the hospital. As the article reports:
These results are fascinating, in part because the principal question – how important is speed in the care of trauma patients before they get to the hospital? – has never been so elegantly explored. Previous efforts to measure the effect of ambulance time on survival have been plagued by the fundamental problem that medics may behave differently, like driving faster or spending more time working on patients, depending on the severity of the condition, making it impossible to tease out the effect of time on survival. While some of these biases remain, the authors of this study used sophisticated methods to account for many of these problems, allowing the reader to reasonably conclude that for ambulance care, a few minutes either way neither saves nor costs lives for patients with severe trauma.
I admit, I was drawn to the profession by the thrill of the driving. Without that adrenaline rush, the work of an emergency medical technician is mostly paperwork and heavy lifting.
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