Paramedics comprise an essential part of the health-care system of many countries. Paramedics are persons trained to offer emergency aid to persons who have been injured or suddenly taken ill. Oftentimes, paramedics are the first responders at most emergency scenes. Paramedics are not trained to perform medical or surgical procedures. Although their role is largely restricted to stabilizing patients or casualties and administering oxygen, paramedics’ contribution is an important factor determining whether the patient survives or dies.
When they are contacted promptly and when they arrive early and manage the patients professionally, paramedics save many lives (Warren, 2002). However, paramedics do not always act professionally, sometimes due to factors within or factors beyond their control. On numerous occasions, paramedics are criticized for administering the worng drugs, violating standard evaluation procedures, arriving at the emergency scene late or not getting the patient to hospital in the fastest manner, and not administering oxygen. When any of these happens, the lives of casualties are put at risk and their chances of survival are eroded rapidly.
Paramedics against whom complaints of any of the listed misconducts are raised can be accused of negligence. Just like doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, paramedics can be held liable for professional negligence and complainants can seek financial compensation through courts of law. Paramedic’s negligence In many emergencies, so important is the emergency attention accorded by the paramedics that the absence or delayed arrival of paramedics at the scene of emergency lowers chances of patients’ survival and increases chances of the injuries getting worse.
Apart from prompt arrival however, it is essential that the paramedics administer the medical attention properly and professionally. Paramedics find some casualties and patients unconscious or in a critical condition by the time they arrive at the scene. Their inability to communicate or make decisions makes them very vulnerable to misdiagnosis, mishandling and administration of the wrong drugs. For instance, when paramedics administer the wrong drug or administer the right drug in the wrong manner, chances are high that the patients’ condition, rather than improving, often worsens.
In extreme cases, patients who would have recovered fully and quickly end up dying or with permanent injuries or paralyses as a result of the paramedics’ errors. While not all patients survive, paramedics are required to handle all patients professionally. The administration of wrong drugs or unprocedural administration of drugs is serious acts of malpractice and paramedics are often held legally liable (Eburn, 2007).
It does not matter that the paramedics were acting in good faith, and in the case of volunteers, they were not even paid for their work as paramedics. The fact that the wrong drug has been used on a patient or the drug used has been administered in the wrong manner means that the patient’s life was jeopardized unnecessarily. As long as the patients can prove sufficiently that they have been the victims of such malpractice, the courts can award the patients, or their dependents, heavy financial rewards for the paramedics’ negligence.
While the possibility of being sued has the potential of discouraging some people from pursuing a career as paramedics, it also protects patients and casualties from misconduct of wayward, reckless and unprofessional paramedics who can put patients’ lives at unnecessary risk. Avoiding professionally negligence Some of the factors which cause paramedics to act unprocedurally or unprofessionally are beyond their control, meaning that no paramedic is fully immune from accusations of professional negligence.
For instance, bad weather, bad roads and traffic snarl-ups can delay the arrival of an ambulance. The presence of riotous and hostile crowds at the emergency scene can also occasion delays. The result of delayed arrival of the ambulance can be the death of the patient or the worsening of the patient’s condition. However, paramedics can reduce their chances of being taken to court for professional negligence. Paramedics keen on avoiding negligence charges achieve much by updating their skills continously.
The medical landscape is dynamic, noted for introduction of new drugs, new technologies, and new institutions. Attending training and re-training courses keeps paramedics’ skills up-to-date so that they are most likely to use not just the drugs and technologies in use currently, but the best when they have the choice. Paramedics who do not update their skills are more likely to handle patients in a manner which may have been accepted previously, but which may have been later found to be harmful or inefficient, and therefore discarded.
Paramedics can also reduce chances of charges of professional negligence by conducting their business in a manner as professional as practically possible. Paramedics may be unable to clear traffic jams or control murderous crowds around emergency scenes. However, they can avoid unnecessary deviations or delays when called to respond to emergencies. Paramedics on duty should always be on the alert and should ensure that ambulances are equipped and in good condition to avoid the delays occasioned by equipping emergency kits or pushing faulty ambulances when they are called to an emergency.
Preparedness also includes ensuring that emergency kits do not contain expired or soiled drugs, bandages, needles, blades and other items. References Eburn, M. (2007). Ambulance Service of NSW v Worley; Further Legal Lessons for the Emergency Services. Journal of Emergency Primary Health Care, Vol. 5, Issue 2. Warren, B. (2002). Medics, EMTs at Fire Stations are Real Lifesavers. Atlanta: The Atlanta Journal, March 27, 2002.