I would like some feedback on an event that really made my blood boil. Tell me if I'm over reacting. 
I was on a rescue call for a rollover yesterday, one person with injuries, we assisted the ambulance in loading the patient and sent them on their way to our local hospital. We returned to the station and were paged out for a transfer from our local nursing home to the hospital. We went there for the patient, and took them to the hospital. I began filling out paperwork on our run sheets. The first crew was still up there with the rollover. One of the crew was "texting" just outside the first ER bed. This young EMT of ours also texts in the rig, and was warned not to on calls. I'm asking for feedback here. We are a paid vol dept and I feel there is NO room for this while on a run, period. If I'm out of bounds here let me know. If I'm in the right I plan on bringing this up at our next fire meeting and address it.

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I agree. You should definitely bring this up with his officer. 

If this is against your SOP's or SOG's then by all means you should take it up with one of your officer's. If it is not you may have a fight on your hands.

I began filling out paperwork on our run sheets. The first crew was still up there with the rollover. One of the crew was "texting" just outside the first ER bed. This young EMT of ours also texts in the rig, and was warned not to on calls


These excerpts stick out to me. While I'm not a fan of texting, I can see some aspects here that can both go towards the overreacting as well as the EMT being out of line.


First and foremost is the EMT was "still" at the ER when you walked in with another pt. Most likely the pt was turned over to the ER staff, which pretty much means the call is over.

The other aspect is that you state you noticed this person texting as you begun to fill out paperwork, so to me, I would guess the partner of "texting EMT" is filling out paperwork too. If that is the case, then I see the EMT texting as doing so while waiting for the other. To me, no big deal and I see the overreating if that is the case.


On the flip side, is if there are SOP/Gs in place stating not to do this, then that is a violation. Texting in the rig, I could see either way. If enroute to a call or while on a call, that would be a no no, there is no room for that and your mind should be on the call. However, if texting while going back to the station, I don't see that as a big deal. However, if the officer of the rig doesn't want someone to text, then don't text, quite simple.


Point being unless the officer of the rig specifically asks a crewmember not to text or if there is an SOP/G in place, then you may be overreacting here. Although texting enroute to or on a call should not even be a thought and should not be tolerated.

Policy is policy. If this was an isolated incident and the patient has been/is turned over to end care facility staff and the messaging is urgent or important I could see overlooking it. This does not appear to be the case at all. I would address this one last time with this person directly and let them know  that this would be the last time it would go unreported. Staff morale and discipline is a fine line. Careful consideration in decision making is huge when it comes to stuff like this. Handle it gently but firmly.

Basically my thoughts exactly Crabbe!!! Good post brother...

I'd say look at your SoP's to see if there is a policy that bans texting or using electronic devices in such situations.


However, I understand (this is generally my generation and younger) that texting is a huge thing these days. Everyone does it all of the time - it's basically a primary source of communication these days. Most people my age do it without a second thought. You hear that notification sound and you just do it. Does it make it right? Not really, and I whole-heartedly agree that there are times and places that it is not acceptable to text.


I'm not an EMT, only a FF and an ambulance driver. I'll admit, yes, I do text while on scene if, and only if, I am not doing anything. If I am around a patient, I won't text. If I am helping in the back of the ambulance (for whatever reason I am in the back instead of the front), I won't text. On a fire scene, I won't text (this is partly due to the fact that it's a hassle to even get to my phone in my pocket, or it won't even be on me [blasphemy, I know!]). But if I am at a hospital, or sitting in the front seat of the ambulance while the EMT takes vitals in the back, or I am standing around on scene with nothing to do (EMS calls, generally), I'll send a quick reply text to someone, or I'll text my girlfriend and let her know that I am on a call and I'll be home later. Will I have a full-fledged conversation? Nope. Have I seen other people with cell phones glued to their hands as if it is the Holy Grail? Yes, and therein lies a problem in itself.


Overall, look at the SoP's. Regardless, I'd say talk to an officer on the side (remember the Chain of Command!). If it gets to be a problem, especially if it possibly endangers the welfare of others (patients included), push for the implementation of a policy or By-Law.

If the dept. has regulations against it being done, then everyone should follow them or face disciplinary action. If they are allowed to do it during down time on calls, then let them do it.  Just my .02 worth.

According to the OP's story, it seemed that this was during "down time."


If there is no specific SoP's against it, there should be some implemented, even though this case seems to not truly be an issue. An issue is when the texting is done illegally (Ex: While driving apparatus), or it hinders operations (Ex: Fire scene when work is to be done, when patient care is needed, etc). When there is nothing to do, such in this case (which is the feeling I am getting), then there should be no course for disciplinary action.


"[...] I began filling out paperwork on our run sheets.[...]

It was time for paperwork, so maybe the aforementioned member had none to do. Patient care, at this time, was also in the hands of hospital personnel.


"[...] One of the crew was "texting" just outside the first ER bed.[...]"

This is what I don't like about the situation - the location when texting. It is in bad taste to text RIGHT at the bed, unless they're getting information regarding the call. Outside of the room in the ER somewhere? That's fine, to me. In the break room (we have an EMS Room at our local hospital) or outside near the rig? Even better. But at the bed is iffy, and I can see why a call to action would be needed for the location of the person, but the timing (lack of duties or necessary action at the time) isn't an issue.


The OP also calls them a "young EMT," so I am assuming that the OP is slightly older. I think when any new technology comes into play that there is general gap of acceptability as to when it is ok to use the technology. For example, some younger people seem to think it is ok to text at the dinner table, whereas adults don't see it as ethical or appropriate.


Personally, if you think it is that big of an issue, OP, take it up with an officer. Get SoP's and/or By-Laws setup regarding the issue. But I think in this situation that the "young EMT" wasn't doing anything terrible. Maybe just tell them to text elsewhere, not near the bed.



SOP or not, it's a bad idea.  A local department finally had to modify their official policies and procedures when it got to the point that the coffee-shop crowd knew all of the details of a fire or EMS call before the trucks even made it back to the station - including some details that should be protected under HIPAA.  And in light of HIPAA rules, the public perception of a responder talking or texting while on scene -- or at the hospital -- is a PR nightmare.  ESPECIALLY given that virtually all phones now have cameras built in.  Unless absolutely necessary, the phone should stay out of sight.

Sorry, but I have to disagree.


I've seen accidents on news scenes and in other media outlets that have victims in the picture (although their faces aren't always displayed, or blurred). While I know that this is media outlets taking the pictures, civilians may, so firefighters and EMS personnel should be able to, as long as there is no violations under HIPAA. I'd advise responders, for legal reasons, to leave victims out of the picture, unless it is necessary. I believe banning responders from taking pictures would violate the 1st Amendment, even if it in their SoP's. However, if it is a danger to take these pictures/videos (Ex: Being in an IDLH environment or a firezone, or interrupting FF/EMS Operations), then THAT should be mandated to be prohibited - not taking pictures/video in general.


Other than that, I've seen pictures/videos from FFs and EMTs serve as great educational tools for other responders.


And lastly, why should the public CARE if we are texting at a hospital? How do they know what we're talking about and to whom? We could be getting run times from dispatch, or texting an officer telling them of an issue. People critique everything these days. Some people will always find a way to complain about something, even though it is none of their business. Sorry, but if I am at a hospital as a driver standing there and I need to text my family telling them my whereabouts so they know that I am safe, that is none of their business. However, if I am on-scene standing over a patient that was involved in an MVA texting, therein lies a problem.

You're right.  We're not the media.  We're not Joe-on-the-street civilians.  We're responders.  It's our job to take care of the call.  Not report on it.  When we're on scene, we are not Joe-on-the-street, we are (right or wrong) public officials in the public's eyes.  We are an active part OF that scene - and you said it yourself, people critique everything these days.  Do you think you'd have a hard time at a budget meeting getting more dollars for your department if at every call, a rookie is seen texting while on scene, "wasting their tax dollars"?

I may be a rookie in the fire service, but if you're concerned about your first-amendment rights while responding to a call, maybe it's time to turn your pager in, your priorities are out of balance.  (And if a policy exists banning such activities, I believe your continued membership in such a department would signify your acceptance of the policy, and your waiving of any such right *while serving in your capacity* -- in other words, if the department has a no phones policy, anytime you put on your gear, you agree to work under that policy)

And I'll stand by my comment.  Public perception can be dangerous thing.  Standing outside the ER talking or texting = bad public mojo.  If you need to talk/text, step outside the hospital and do what you need to do.  Remove yourself from the situation.  I guess my personal take is, you need to look at a situation through the eyes of one of those people that criticize everything.  Is anything you do going to give them ammunition against you or your department?

If patient care has been transferred to ER staff unit restocked and someone is taking care of required paperwork then as long as there isn't detailed call related stuff in the txt then its no biggie. You might want to mention to the person about going to the medic room to hang out or back to the unit instead of just standing around the ER.

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