I’m back to work after being a stay-home mom for a while to take care of the two youngest in our house. This year the youngest started school, and I started working for a paid EMS service two days a week. I work two 12 hour shifts – that’s really all I need. My agency responds to emergencies, as well as doing inter-facility transports. I worked yesterday and we did a couple of emergencies and then a bunch of transports, some to nursing homes and some to residences. I prefer the latter - the patients at least don’t have to be in the hospital on Thanksgiving.
One of our transports back home was a hospice patient being returned home to “convalesce” (read: die at home). She was on oxygen, and was deemed to be stable, so it was a BLS transport, which meant I rode in the back and my partner (a paramedic) drove. I typically don’t mind the transports, because the patients are pretty interesting to talk to and I try to make them feel better if they are a little down. The patient and I tend to have a little bit of fun.
On this run, about a fifteen-minute ride, the patient began to complain of having trouble breathing, but as I was monitoring her she was breathing at the same rate and with the same labored breathing that she had in the hospital. I got her to calm down and just sit back and relax and I told her we were taking her home. She did fine on the ride and when we got to the house we had to wait a few minutes for her family to get there.
As we were waiting, the patient told me she was feeling strange. This sent a shiver down my spine. When I asked her to describe what she was feeling, she said she couldn’t - but that it was different and she didn’t like it. I checked her vitals again, and they hadn’t changed at all so there was nothing we could do. I just tried to assure her that everything was going to be fine and that she was home. I told her that we were going to get her inside and into her own bed and that she maybe just a little anxious about getting home and being in her own bed and surroundings.
We took the patient into the house and got her all set in her room and we double-checked with her daughter to make sure they were OK with us leaving. The daughter thanked us and said that they would be fine. I got the signature that I needed for the billing form, and I went out to help my partner get the rig back in order. As I walked up to my partner I told him that I hated doing this type of transport.
He asked why, and I explained that I was afraid the patient wasn’t going to make it back home. She was truly looking like she was just to the point of “this is it…I’ve had enough.” My partner (compassionate soul that he is) proceeded to tell me nonchalantly that yup - he has had a patient die in the rig on him on the way home from the hospital and that there is nothing you can do about it. I just shook my head…thanks, pardner. I still hate these types of transports, because you know they are near the end and you just don’t know when it’s going to happen. The rest of the day went more or less smoothly.
I do love this job. I like to think that I’m helping keep the spirits up on the patients that are in some of these nursing homes. I try my best and I will continue to do so. To anyone new in this field I would say to just try and make the patients feel like they matter, regardless of the situation, and that they are not just a job to you. Make them smile when you can and don’t take anything too personally. This is a great job, and if you can make a patient feel good and smile then that’s all that should really matter.