Do you feel as though your personnel can really handle physical stress? Even if they have passed state physical agility testings?
It may not have to be a four-hundred pound patient between the bed and dresser, or the patient you found in a cramped basement that must be carried carefully up a flight of stairs. There are 24 movable vertebrae in your spine. The discs, ligaments, and muscles involved in the movement of these vertebrae can be damaged, torn, twisted, herniated, fatigued, and strained by only a small amount of force.
So what can we do? We can not avoid the conditions in which patients are found; however, we can practice and simulate these conditions during regular trainings. As call volumes decrease, training should coincidentally increase; especially for new members who have limited practice with loads, lifts, and carries. During simulations or scenario-based trainings, we can manipulate and practice the techniques required to face real-world situations. If we practice how to safely manage patients, in relation to the safety and wellness of the crew, we can prevent injuries.
For example, in addition to building a scenario, place your dummy or patient in an awkward position or in a small room. Explain to your crew that the purpose of the exercise is not only to review protocol, but to effectively manage the patient without creating the chance for injury to themselves by prolonged or awkward bending, twisting, lifting, or carrying.
Remember scene safety does not just involve crime scenes or hazardous materials incidents. Look out for yourself and your crew, ask for assistance when you need it, and encourage physical fitness.
Lt. Derek M. Machado, EMT-C