There’s a lot of debate on what EMS is, including whether it’s a profession. Some would say that we are; some would say that we aren’t. Personally, I think that we have the potential to become a profession, depending on some decisions that EMS collectively makes, especially regarding education and entry into EMS.
But there’s one thing that I’ve found is a hallmark of some of the traditionally accepted professions, such as law and medicine. Namely, we recognize that our patients/clients have autonomy — in other words, the right to accept or reject our advice in most cases.
In our Anglo-American legal system, people have a legal right to make bad decisions. It’s very rare that we, in any field, can substitute our own decisions and force someone else to do what we think is “the right thing.” It’s a hallmark of the liberties that our country and legal system are based upon. It’s a quick, slippery slope and a short, dangerous trip to allowing the power of the government to intrude on any decision that anyone makes at any time.
So, the next time you think you “know best” when you want to force a patient to accept transport or put them on that backboard because you can, ask yourself what a professional does. You’ll find the answer rarely involves substituting your personal judgment for your patient’s free will.
Respecting your patients, including respecting their free will go a long way toward enhancing professionalism — as well as avoiding meeting legal professionals.