2 MIN READ | General

Peter Wallace

4 Mistakes Paramedics Often Make

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Peter Wallace, (2018, June 21). 4 Mistakes Paramedics Often Make. Psychreg on General. https://www.psychreg.org/4-mistakes-paramedics/
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Paramedics play a vital role when it comes to stabilising a patient en-route to a hospital. It doesn’t matter if you hire short or long distance medical transportation services if the paramedic or EMT (emergency medical technician) doesn’t know about vital signs.  

Vital signs inform the emergency medical services (EMS) about the current state of the patient. Most practitioners learn how to check for vital signs early in course, but they might forget the importance of accuracy. Here are some quick tips to improve your accuracy when checking for vital signs and help stabilise your patient until you reach the hospital:

1. Don’t assume systolic pressure only because of the pulse location

Most EMSA (Emergency Medical Service Alliance) provider learns palpable pulse at specified anatomic location correlates to estimated systolic blood pressure. Moreover, they are taught that radial pulse means systolic of 90mm Hg, femoral pulse is 70mm Hg while carotid pulse is 60mm Hg.

This assumption is taught in different courses with the likes of Advanced Trauma Life Support and others. However, it’s no longer supported by peer-reviewed research. This assessment work is no longer standard curricula in most parts of the world.

2. The full blood pressure

Although taking blood pressure based on the location of the palpated pulse is accurate, systolic blood pressure gives partial measure. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in arteries when the heart pumps and rests, systole, and diastole.

Measuring only systolic pressure is better, called palpating the blood pressure. It gives a vague idea of whether the organs are perfused with blood. However, reading both systolic and diastolic pressure lets accurate read arterial pressure accurately.

Mean arterial pressure (MAP) is evaluated with different calculations, including a cardiac monitor, which show the value based on measured blood pressure. It represents the pressure of blood perfusing your organs. This gives you a general idea about the effectiveness of your circulatory system.

3. Counting respirations

In general, EMS reach their patient when they have a respiratory rate of 16 breathes per minutes. Assuming a patient is breathing means everything is fine is a mistake. You need screening and diagnosis tools to check the patient thoroughly, don’t assume things.

Check the quality of respirations, regular or irregular, deep or shallow and unlaboured respiration or labored respiration. Mind these things when you count the breaths. Take your time to obtain and record the patient’s respiratory rate results. It will pay off.

Commercial flight medical escorts like Medical Transport Services are laced with every equipment an EMS and paramedic needs to read the patient and stabilise him until he reaches a proper medical facility. These companies also employ well trained and experienced staff to assure the patient gets the best treatment possible before getting to a proper hospital.

4. Unable to measure a vital sign

In case you are not able to measure a vital sign, you should report it. Clear lung sound different than a clogged one. It may seem obvious, but it can be hard to tell the difference between them. Look for wheezes and rhonchi as they assess there is something role, you might misplace an endotracheal tube or something worse.


Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.


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