Webster defines comfort as ” a sense of physical or psychological ease. To give strength and hope, to cheer, ease grief or trouble.”
Working in the medical field, more specifically, in pre-hospital emergency medicine for Ada County Paramedics, is incredibly rewarding, yet a crucial phase in the initial link a patient will encounter. The care the patient initially receives can set the foundation for the level of comfort they feel during their entire health care experience.
One of my unforgettable calls as a brand new EMT-Basic, one that stands out and helped shape me into the paramedic I am today, started off like this: Tones go off for a 58y/o male with chest pain. I’m frantically reviewing all of the possible causes in my head of what this patient may be experiencing and the worse case scenario is a heart attack.
We arrive on scene and my seasoned experienced paramedic partner looks calm, cool, and collected. I gather our equipment and we head in to see our patient. I eagerly introduce myself and attempt to start collecting patient history along with vital signs. My partner looks at me, respectfully tells me to hold off and then takes over the assessment. As he questions the patient to establish patient history, I immediately mentally take notes on how he interviews the patient. He begins with the “text book,” classic questions to establish the patient’s mental status. The patient’s anxiety and fear is felt in the atmosphere…
There are many ways to create an environment of comfort for a patient, but for me, the top 5 are:
1. Showing Empathy
2. Creating a positive atmosphere by way of the attitude you exhibit
3. Providing the level of sensitivity established by the patient, family, and fellow responders.
4. Recognizing that the patient and/or family members have called 911 because they have perceived the situation as an emergency, and have invited you into a vulnerable moment in their life.
5. And last but not least, the principle I aspire to represent significantly is trying to always maintain a healthy a sense of humor.
As my partner continued his assessment, the next question he asked is the one that stood out the most to me. It was not the question itself, it was what transpired following the question. He asked the patient, ” What’s pigs skin used for?” I am aware of asking a patient questions that involve who, what, where, and when, however the following question was a new one.
“What is pigs skin used for?”
The patient and I must have had the same expression on our face. I mentally searched for that question in my standing written orders, in the many text books that I read, and the numerous lectures I was exposed to. However, I could not recall that question ever being asked. The patient responded, ” for a football?” My partner replied, “to hold the pig together.”
The patient chuckled, my partner had a smile on his face, and instantly, the atmosphere took on a whole new feeling. The anxiety and fear vanished. As my partner continued with the assessment, I was able to witness how a patient’s overall emotional state was transformed significantly. I observed how my partner was able to transpose the atmosphere. It was changed into a level of comfort that is not taught in books, lectures, or in our standing written orders, however it is developed from experience.
One of the most important principles that I adhere to in this field and more importantly, a representative of Ada County Paramedics, is to provide the level of comfort that was established on a potentially high anxiety call early in my career.
One of the people I admire most, said it best, ” The most radical act anyone can commit is to be happy.” ― Patch Adams