Phrases that annoy medics

Do you use any of these? We can’t be friends.

Believe it or not, my day job is actually as a paramedic and a registered nurse. I just dabble in the dark arts of technomancy. In some ways, working in healthcare and IT are somewhat similar – both require a logical and practical approach to fixing problems, many problems are down to user/patient error, and everybody wants to tell you how to do your job. That said, there are some particularly obnoxious phrases that really annoy me at work. If you use any of these, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your life:


6: I want your help… but I don’t want your help.

I understand why people do this, and it’s usually mental health patients. They call up, ask for help, but then when we turn up and offer to take them somewhere for treatment, they initially refuse and stall before (inevitably) getting in the car. This isn’t annoying as much as it is frustrating and I can sort of understand why they go on with this… but that doesn’t make it any easier when we know that you’re going to go with us, we know you want help, and we will help you if you’ll let us. We can’t fix what’s wrong on scene – we’re not mental health professionals.


5: I have no medical history… except for angina, asthma, diabetes, and I’m on Warfarin.

When I ask you “Do you have any medical problems?” and you say “No, I’m fine” I might have to take your word for it. If I see you’ve got a lovely scar over the top of your sternum and spy a bottle of Anginine on the shelf, I’m going to become very suspicious. It astounds me how many people say they have no medical problems, yet have a pharmacy’s worth of medications rattling around. Yes, your blood pressure might be fine while you’re on your medications – but you’re still being treated for hypertension. No, you might not have chest pain now, but the fact that you had a massive myocardial infarction which slipped into ventricular fibrillation 2 years ago is well worth mentioning.


4: I couldn’t be bothered driving, or: I’ll get seen faster if I go by ambulance.

If you have the common cold, and you come in by ambulance, you do not get seen faster. The sickest person gets priority in every case. Here’s what will happen: I’ll tell the triage nurse you’ve got a fever with flu-like symptoms and have had paracetamol. Then I’ll lower the stretcher and walk you into the waiting room – where you will wait until the hospital decides to see you. And if you’ve called me out because you couldn’t be bothered driving, don’t expect me to faun all over you. You’ve just diverted me from a sick child or an elderly lady who has been on the floor for the last 2 hours and can’t move. You’re not special.


3: Oh, so you’re an ambulance driver?

I don’t mind the term ‘ambulance officer’ because it’s my actual job status. ‘Paramedic’ is a clinical level. I don’t even mind ‘stretcher bearer’ because of its historical value. But I’m not an ambulance driver. Yes, I drive an ambulance – I drive it quite fast sometimes. But my primary role is advanced life support. A mere driver doesn’t gain IV access and push morphine or fentanyl while you’re writing in pain. They don’t do manual defibrillation or interpret 12 lead ECGs. They don’t insert LMAs. I wish I could just be a driver – it’d be easy, I’d throw you in the car and wish you the best of luck. But I’m not.


2: I know I’m not doing what my doctor told me to do, but…

Honestly? I really don’t care what excuse you’ve come up with. Occasionally someone comes up with a good reason, like ‘I stopped taking my antidepressants because I was like a zombie all day’ but more than likely I get ‘I just don’t feel like taking them’ or ‘I couldn’t be bothered to go to the chemist’ or ‘I don’t feel well.’ I don’t care – the fact is I’m here right now because something has gone wrong (and it’s probably related to you not doing what you should be doing) and it needs to be fixed. It’s too late for excuses – you’ve made your choice, now we have to deal with it. But if you’re willingly ignored advice, I can’t really give you much sympathy.


1: As a mother…

I don’t care. I do not care. This phrase is my number one most hated phrase because it essentially says one thing – by virtue of the fact I’ve done what countless other women have done before me, my opinion is more important than yours. Being a mother makes you an expert on one thing – your own child. If you tell me your kid isn’t acting normally and looks sick, I believe you – because you spend time with this kid. But when you try to lecture me on how to do my job, or on other aspects of healthcare, the fact that you’re a mother means absolutely nothing unless you happen to be an emergency physician, paramedic, or nurse – and even then that has nothing to do with motherhood. Being a mother does not make you an expert on paediatric medicine, on vaccines, on the benefits of fentanyl over morphine, on trauma, on acute coronary syndromes, on how to drive an ambulance, or on anything else except your own friggin’ kid. Your opinion is not suddenly more valid because you’re a mother. You are not special in the grand scheme of humanity. Get over it.


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