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Navigating EMS assessments: A dive into best practices

A candid discussion reveals the art of thorough patient assessments, the value of differential diagnosis, and the need for feedback in EMS

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In this episode of Inside EMS, hosts Chris Cebollero Kelly Grayson delve into the intricacies of patient assessments in emergency medical situations. They dissect the value of thorough assessments versus focused evaluations, highlighting the critical role of differential diagnosis and the dire need for feedback in honing EMS skills.

The duo debate whether a detailed head-to-toe assessment is always necessary or if a focused assessment based on the chief complaint suffices. Chris opines that a thorough examination provides a fuller picture, vital in cases where patients may not have seen a healthcare professional in years. Kelly, on the other hand, advocates for a focused approach, emphasizing efficiency and relevancy to the primary complaint, especially in high-pressure emergency scenarios.

The dialogue unveils a significant challenge in EMS education and practice – the delineation between a medical and trauma assessment, and the traditional versus a more systems-based approach to patient evaluations. They both acknowledge that the nature and depth of assessments could vary based on the patient’s ability to participate in the examination.

One eye-opening anecdote from Chris revealed a situation where a misdiagnosis by a doctor led to a critical oversight in patient care, underscoring the importance of independent assessments and differential diagnosis in EMS practice. Chris shares a valuable lesson from this experience, emphasizing the need to “talk oneself into the diagnosis” rather than accepting a preliminary diagnosis at face value.

Kelly also addressed a fundamental challenge in EMS – the lack of feedback, which stifles the opportunity for professionals to refine their assessment skills and knowledge base. He asks, “how difficult it is to improve the art of assessment and your skills if you don’t get feedback?”

The hosts encourage EMS professionals to share their insights and best practices, acknowledging the collective effort required to enhance patient assessment methodologies and ultimately, patient care. They wrap up the discussion with an invitation for listener feedback, fostering an ongoing dialogue to advance EMS practice.

The episode serves as a catalyst for a broader conversation on patient assessment best practices, urging EMS practitioners to continually evaluate and refine their approach towards patient care, thereby enhancing the overall quality and efficacy of emergency medical services.

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The Inside EMS podcast is a regular expert discussion of hot topics, clinical issues, operational and leadership lessons for EMTs, paramedics and chiefs