One of the recurring things I see with EMS memes and t-shirts is the theme that “you don’t understand what we do.” This sentiment is usually expressed along with some gory or chaotic EMS scene intended to show just how hard and heroic it is to be an EMT or a paramedic. Funny how these scenes never show the more mundane dialysis transfer or posting the ambulance at an intersection. But I digress. Being a medic, I understand the realities of EMS, especially the unpredictability, the inability to know what will happen next, and yes, even the occasional chaos.
Last night, a good friend of mine who’s been around EMS for a while told me about an encounter they had with an older medic they occasionally work with. My friend was explaining and sharing an article about the Folstein Mini-Mental Status Exam, its applicability to EMS, and how the standard chart notation of “A&OX4” for alert and oriented times four is rather insufficient, especially in the legal setting as it is conclusory and often lacks further context or explanation in the medic’s chart. The other medic, let’s call him T-Rex, because he approaches dinosaur level knowledge, argues that he’s been to court multiple times and no attorney has ever challenged him.
Let’s stop right there. Putting my lawyer hat back on, I can, with a pretty high degree of certainty, tell you why no attorney has challenged T-Rex on his documentation. The documentation of “A&OX4” is not relevant to what the attorney is asking about. I’ll further surmise that, fortunately for him, he wasn’t the defendant a lawsuit in which the patient’s present mental capacity was a key part of the plaintiff’s claim. In such a case, I can assure you that the questioning from opposing counsel would have taken a much different tone. Additionally, the questions that the lawyer asked would have most likely been guided by an expert witness or two with knowledge of EMS. The experience of being examined or deposed by opposing counsel is rarely a fun experience, even when the lawyer comes across as being friendly. Nay, especially when the lawyer comes across being friendly. The probing nature of the methodical examination and questioning of each and every aspect of everything you did on that call is the mental version of a simultaneous colonoscopy and root canal, both of which are occurring without the benefit of pain management or sedation.
So, my dear EMS friends, I ask you this. Don’t presume to understand what a lawyer does, why they do it, or how they do it. Having had the benefit of law school, I can assure you it’s as foreign of an experience to an EMS provider as the work of an EMS provider is to an attorney. We just don’t have “cool” t-shirts or memes to tell you how awesome it is to be an attorney or how you don’t understand what an attorney does. Maybe I should get some t-shirts printed up with Tom Cruise saying, “I want the truth!”
Until the t-shirts get printed, here’s hoping that each of you never have to find out exactly what it is that a lawyer does or how we think.