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Firehouse Funnies
by Will Wyatt

4 people you meet on the EMS scene

It's amazing how those who can most impact your life always show up on scene; it's almost like heaven

By Will Wyatt

After you attend enough medical emergencies you begin to recognize the same people time and time again. No, not the same individuals, but those with the same traits.

I guess it's just human nature how different people react to different events in their lives. However, you can count on meeting some of these four people at emergency medical scenes.

1. The translator
The translator will answer every question in the primary exam for the patient.

"Sir, how long have you been experiencing chest pain?"

"He has had chest pain for about an hour."

"Did you take anything?"

"He took a nitro about 5 minutes ago."

Now at the risk of sounding sexist, the translator is usually played by a female. Naturally, there can be male translators, and I have met a few.

"Sir, do you have any allergies?"

"He once had a reaction to starfish omelets in Borneo."

At some point I will politely ask if the patient can talk. That usually will help the translator gently understand we want to hear from the actual patient.

Obviously if the patient is incapacitated or a small child, a family member with information is very helpful and much needed.

2. The hospital selection expert
These can be very problematic. It usually starts at the time of dispatch. The selection expert will inform the call taker that the patient has to go to Our Lady of the Frozen Lake Hospital because that is where her doctor is.

When you walk in the door you are greeted by the selection expert who announces that this patient is going to Our Lady of the Frozen Lake and that is final.

Well, about that.

We usually try to accommodate these things, especially if the patient has a serious medical condition and she has recently been seen at that facility. Sometimes the medical condition dictates where we have to go. A certain level of trauma should go to a trauma facility; a suspected stroke should go to a stroke facility and so on.

Now I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. However, I don't think the urologist is coming down to the ER at 2 a.m. to look at a broken toe. I'm pretty sure the urologist will let the emergency room doctors handle this. Medical professionals please correct me if I am wrong.

But, in the end the selection expert will have none of this. Even an explanation of the protocol that says "transport to the closest appropriate facility" has no effect. They see nothing wrong with passing five hospitals on the way to Our Lady of the Frozen Lake.

However, sometimes it is a heavy call-volume night or the hospital request is completely unreasonable, like being in another state. This request was to go from Texas to Virginia.

We will politely explain that, no, we are going go St. Somewhere, which is five minutes away. This always ignites an uproar, and the inevitable, "I pay my water bill for this!"

3. The navigator
Once in the medic unit the navigator will question you on your route to the hospital.

"Are you going to go Main to the freeway? It's faster to go Route 1. I would go Maple to Main because Barnyard Memorial is right there on the right."

I usually smile and tell the navigator this is the route we have to go as dictated by Homeland Security. They always look confused after that. Of course in the case of the persistent navigator I use the fail-safe: "talking to the driver of an emergency vehicle is prohibited by federal law."

That always works.

4. The TV medical expert
Although they hold no medical training certifications of any kind, the medical expert has watched every episode of "Grey's Anatomy" and has Googled all the major aliments. They are a wealth of information and suggestions. 

"This person needs a CT scan, I suspect a GI bleed, are you going to check the blood sugar? My mother died of this."

I attended a seizure call one afternoon at a bus stop. We knew who we were going to see before we left the station. A middle-aged homeless man resided at the bus stop.

He was and is a frequent flyer. He has a seizure disorder and gets transported a lot. The bus stop was one of those covered ones and this gentleman ate and slept there. On occasion he would get run off by the transit police, but most times he was there.

On this particular outing he had fallen during the seizure and bumped his head. A middle-aged woman was on the scene holding a towel to his head when we arrived. She gave her patient assessment and finished up with the statement, "It's my professional opinion that he be transported to a medical facility."

I acknowledged and thanked for her patient report and asked if she was a doctor or nurse.

"No," she said thoughtfully pointing to the end store in a strip center. "I run the wig shop over there."

The only thing missing was her saying, "But I did stay in a Holiday Hotel last night."

I politely invited her to be on her way back to the wig shop. 

Let me hear from you. 

About the author

Will Wyatt, who is originally from New Orleans, has been in the fire service for about 30 years. Will is a captain at the Village Fire Department in the Houston area. Will also works part time at another fire department and part time at a 911 emergency medical service. He has held numerous ranks with fire departments in the Houston area including full time training officer, fire marshal and deputy chief. Will holds a master fire fighter certification with the State of Texas, an instructor certification, pump operator certification, and an associate degree from Houston Community College. Recently will authored a book on the fire service entitled, "And a Paycheck, Too!" Check out an excerpt here. Contact Will at

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Camerin Schimenti Camerin Schimenti Tuesday, April 08, 2014 1:49:56 PM That is awesome! You peg the people so perfectly!
John Hodges John Hodges Tuesday, April 08, 2014 2:43:17 PM Another one. The English Professor. He is the guy that thinks by using big words completely out of context(and pronounced wrong) makes him sound intelligent, and knows what he is talking about. "I have seen this before. I am pretty sure he has a Carnial Hemorrhageatoma of his big toe".
David Newton David Newton Wednesday, April 09, 2014 2:38:49 PM Why be like this? This person is putting a smile on someones face and you are quick to not be a nice person. Why?
Lee B. Caterson Lee B. Caterson Saturday, April 12, 2014 4:29:10 AM (I run in 2 college towns) I love the ones that are actually professors (of engineering, Language, Music etc.) that think they know more about EMS than I do.
Ian R Frankel Ian R Frankel Wednesday, July 02, 2014 6:53:49 AM Had a cardiac arrest with Dr. on scene at a hockey game. Everything was going well until he said to check his mucous membranes? I asked him what kind of Dr. he was and he said a Veterinarian, then he disappeared into the crowd.
Mary Lynn Allen-Insley Mary Lynn Allen-Insley Wednesday, July 02, 2014 7:39:03 AM This is great! as an emergency responder and an ED Nurse of 14 years I can tell you these folks do their schtick in the ED as well it doesnt stop with ya'll. great article!
Tim Dial Tim Dial Wednesday, July 02, 2014 7:42:06 AM You left out one IMPORTANT person. Never ever forget about the Nurse or "Trauma Care" expert. They clearly are way better than anyone who could respond to the scene and love sharing their title and years of schooling. They get in the way and never leave you alone to your job, correcting your every move. But if you correct them...holy hell, you have just cussed at Jesus. And let's not forget, emergency response in the field is only a million times different than in a state of the art hospitals Emergency Department
Michael Toris Michael Toris Wednesday, July 02, 2014 9:11:23 AM We had someone tell us she was a doctor on the scene of pick up vs tree one night. The IC asked the medic doing the assessment if we should call a life flight helicopter, to which the doctor replied "no he doesn't need a helicopter." Turns out the guy had a collapsed lung and various other injuries and that the doctor was a podiatrist.
Raymond Torres Raymond Torres Wednesday, July 02, 2014 9:13:36 AM I had a guy tell me he was a doctor and I asked him how he would like to treat and package this patient for a medevac.. After he couldn't answer my questions and told me he wanted to go with the patient on the helo I asked him what type of doctor he was and he told me he was a dentist.. I told him to get the hell off my scene
Danny Zambroni Danny Zambroni Wednesday, July 02, 2014 9:21:50 AM How about the multi incident patient? You goes something like this. Sir..why did you call 911 today? Well, my wife and I were arguing which led to my headache, and that led to me stubbing my toe, and that led to my shortness of breath which caused my chest pains and that led to my having a stroke. But she left now to go shopping so now I just have a headache again. Have any aspirin? :-D
Mark Dockery Mark Dockery Wednesday, July 02, 2014 11:41:59 AM I still laugh at the guy on scene for an elderly unresponsive male that told me "I rubbed his scrotum and he didn't move." I asked him to point out on himself where he rubbed and the guy points to his sternum.
Kevin Griffith Kevin Griffith Wednesday, July 02, 2014 2:24:46 PM I might add "The Neighbor", that muscles his way into my scene, with nothing to add. They just have a need to be fully updated on the pt's current condition. OR, they will intercept us while rolling out to the LSV, looking for that same update!
Derek Dinges Derek Dinges Wednesday, July 02, 2014 5:13:34 PM MVA motorcycle down. CPR in progress, response time 16 minutes. "Trauma Nurse" on scene runs over and says "we need to do a 12 lead, he is in V-tach". She never looked at the back of this head and the matter on the highway.
Dave Bloom Dave Bloom Thursday, July 03, 2014 10:00:47 AM Ran into a few LEO who were "Hospital Selection Experts". Such as the one who was in such a rush to provide an "escort" to the hospital, he cut off the ambulance. Then had the nerve to bitch out my partner because I had the audacity to take a different route, and provide the patient a safer trip. Or the one who climbed up me, so he could tell his co-worker to tell the transport crew to take him to the hospital where his doctor was, rather than to the closest.
Kelly Grayson Kelly Grayson Thursday, July 03, 2014 11:57:32 AM Good stuff, Will
J.d. Welton J.d. Welton Thursday, July 03, 2014 1:06:11 PM Let's not forget "Wally Waver". The individual jumping up and down in the street waving their arms and pointing to the mangled cars sitting in the intersection while yelling " over here, they are over here!!!!!!!!
Michael McClenon Michael McClenon Thursday, July 03, 2014 5:01:34 PM Simply awesome.
Jane E. MacArthur Jane E. MacArthur Friday, July 04, 2014 10:09:09 AM Or the "Doc" who shows up on scene at oh-dark-thirty, saying "I'm a doctor. Can I help? In a fit of pique I asked him the nature of his PhD. He replied "eastern philosophy".
Randy Bertholdt Randy Bertholdt Wednesday, July 16, 2014 9:01:21 AM Any volunteer opportunities in the Cranston, RI Fire District?
Neil R Goheen Neil R Goheen Tuesday, September 02, 2014 12:26:24 PM After many years of being somewhat congenial on the scene with the a fore mentioned "helpers" I finally had enough and one day while working a bad MVA I was inside the car attending to the patient when this woman runs up yelling "I'm a nurse, I'm a nurse". I thought she was going to try and crawl in with me and I said "congratulations I'm sure someone is proud of you". Still not taking the hint she said "what can I do", I replied "get away from the scene before I have you arrested for interfering with an emergency worker". She left.
Melissa Miller Melissa Miller Tuesday, September 02, 2014 2:15:07 PM I call those yard aerobics :)
Maria Ferrara Maria Ferrara Tuesday, September 02, 2014 3:18:48 PM Hysterical and all true! Thanks for the laugh!
Sarah Kiefer Bomberger Sarah Kiefer Bomberger Tuesday, September 02, 2014 4:32:51 PM Spot On!
Mike Adams Mike Adams Tuesday, September 02, 2014 4:50:31 PM Worked with a medic once that had no use for on scene nurses. We had an MVA one afternoon and when we got to the scene there was a home health nurse down the revine with the pts. She stated she was an RN and what did he need her to do. He said go back up to the road and when you get there, I will tell you what I need you to do. She climbed back up the steep hill , and when she got to the top she shouted back down to him. NOW WHAT! He said stay up there OUT OF OUR WAY! LOL Needless to say she was not a happy camper.
Mike Adams Mike Adams Tuesday, September 02, 2014 4:54:23 PM Oh and I cant leave out the RN at the local ER. She always complained about the way we did things in the field. She went to EMT school and decided we could have the field she would keep her nice clean well lit ER. She never complained again, she said she totally understood why things were the way they were....
Justin Nash Justin Nash Tuesday, September 02, 2014 4:57:03 PM The Dermatologist. This is the MD on the scene who wants to run the call, but has zero ER or Trauma experience. He thinks everyone on scene needs to follow his explicit medical advice, but then slinks away when asked "soooo are you going to accept responsibility for this patient and go with them to the ER?". When asked, they're usually a dermatologist or urologist or something completely useless in a field setting.
James Abt James Abt Tuesday, September 02, 2014 8:05:58 PM Unless its a DR i have seen at the hospital when dropping pt off, i just politely tell them to leave the scene. if they throw more of a fit, i have LE involved
Gillian Hurlburt Cox Gillian Hurlburt Cox Tuesday, September 02, 2014 8:11:54 PM Almost always have one of the 4. I am ER nurse and FF/EMT. Have to think like one on scene, and the other in the ER! I was onscene once of MVA with 2 ejections, and the first onscene were a trauma surgeon and a neurosurgeon (married couple on vacation!) They were amazing, able to advise us of a few things and totally allowed us to do what we knew how to do. One young person had multiple back fractures, and was losing copius amounts of blood. The other had an open brain injury. The trauma surgeon flew with the patient to the ER, his wife reluctantly let her patient fly alone as she drove to pick her spouse up at the hospital. She told me layer that she had never felt so out of control and so thankful when we arrived. She said she could tell me everything the patients would go through in the next month's, but felt helpless in the first few minutes. Both survived worth serious injuries, but alive. ... I believe it's because that MD couple was traveling that remote dirt road that afternoon. Usually a pain in the butt.. but can be all the difference in the world!
Jim Laning Jim Laning Tuesday, September 02, 2014 8:27:58 PM Jumping Jacks
Doreen Miller Doreen Miller Tuesday, September 02, 2014 9:38:35 PM I call it the Ambulance Dance.
Norm Buswell Norm Buswell Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:24:40 PM When carrying out CPR on a guy who had collapsed a woman was in my face when asked if she was the guys wife her reply was no I'm just saying a prayer for him .
Jeff Critchlow Jeff Critchlow Wednesday, September 03, 2014 6:02:16 AM I just want to add a comment about the hospital selection, in many instances, insurance dictates the preferred E/R unless of course life and death instances dictate a transport to the closest facility or trauma center.
Terrence M. Williams Terrence M. Williams Wednesday, September 03, 2014 6:07:15 AM You forgot the rude/useless nurse and the yelling family member who thinks louder is better. Also the gazillion firemen who all want to call a bird for a fender bender.
Corey Trewhella Corey Trewhella Wednesday, September 03, 2014 7:43:49 AM I want to like this 10,000 times. Out of the handful of "doctor on scene" calls. I can only remember 1 where they did great and wanted to get the patient moving.
Joffry van Grondelle Joffry van Grondelle Wednesday, September 03, 2014 1:57:16 PM Very recognizable ;-)
Bob Clarke Bob Clarke Wednesday, September 03, 2014 8:17:21 PM We responded to a syncope episode at the airport where I was assigned. The patient presented in a boarding area, supine, aao. He stated that he felt "dizzy " and lay down on the floor. A woman who presented herself as a "doctor" was trying to persuade our patient to drink a concoction of salt water and Gator Ade which she had demanded from one of the food concessions. She kept insisting that we administer the concoction to the patient "because his blood pressure is low(it wasn't) and I'm a doctor and you people don't know what you're doing". The only way that we get could her off the scene was to engage the pd who had to threaten to take her into custody. She finally walked away yelling about how we were about to "kill that poor young man".
John Thompson John Thompson Wednesday, September 03, 2014 9:38:04 PM Fireman here , what about the medic asking us if we think we need to fly the bird for a MVA T-Bone where the pt was combative / head injury at least one broken leg . After they called us for extraction and we had the guy out . Private ambulance . ??? What about when you candy boys call us for lift assistant ??? Yeah , get off the F.D. ... buddy .
Terrence M. Williams Terrence M. Williams Thursday, September 04, 2014 6:19:58 AM So sorry you got butthurt. Didn't realize you were that sensitive, I hope you didn't cry too much chief.
John Thompson John Thompson Thursday, September 04, 2014 9:46:02 AM Cowboys don't cry . We got this . Stand back ambulance driver , wouldn't want any of this flying glass to get in ur lady parts .
Ricky Crawford Ricky Crawford Thursday, September 04, 2014 8:24:23 PM AOS to see an RN shoving skittles in the mouth of an unconscious female and pouring orange juice down her throat. She wasn't very happy about our reaction. Turns out pt had a massive stroke.
Joyce Roberson Joyce Roberson Thursday, September 04, 2014 9:07:46 PM LOL.
Rick Bohan Rick Bohan Thursday, September 04, 2014 11:38:47 PM I am pretty sure some of you have run into this before too! But my favorite of all time was a lady that when I asked what was bothering her she said it's just like it says in that book over there. I'm like ok this is going to be a fun one.
Rick Bohan Rick Bohan Thursday, September 04, 2014 11:56:51 PM When I was stationed at Camp Lejuene I volunteered off base with the Squad. This was back in the mid 80's so a lot of places didn't have Paramedics yet. This area was one of them. But I was an EMT-Cardiac in Virginia which was equivalent to a Paramedic at the time. Well I was inside a car working on a pt involved in a MVA here I am trying to take care of the pt and there's some guy outside yelling at me to hurry up. Saying I was taking to long. So I asked who are you and he says I'm someone that knows a little bit about doing this stuff. So I say to him unless your a National registry Paramedic you don't know more than I do. I do believe I upset him a little bit.
Terrence M. Williams Terrence M. Williams Friday, September 05, 2014 5:46:36 AM Nah no prob bro. I just feel bad you couldn't pass medic school.
Terrence M. Williams Terrence M. Williams Friday, September 05, 2014 5:52:13 AM I guess THAT is why you don't get paid for what you do
John Thompson John Thompson Friday, September 05, 2014 6:12:07 AM Lol ! Medic school ? I'm a Firefighter son ! 29 year Captain here,been doing this since you were pooping yellow . You keep driving the bus for minimum wage and I'll handle the mans work .
Terrence M. Williams Terrence M. Williams Friday, September 05, 2014 6:55:20 AM Spending 99% of your time cooking, cleaning, and hanging out with other dudes. God damn you're so manly!
John Thompson John Thompson Friday, September 05, 2014 9:35:46 AM Lol ! Now who's butt hurt ?
Terrence M. Williams Terrence M. Williams Friday, September 05, 2014 2:36:14 PM You don't understand sarcasm, do you?
Lanie's Firefighter Fund Lanie's Firefighter Fund Saturday, September 06, 2014 7:12:39 PM i don't like when people get hurt
Andrew Peace Andrew Peace Monday, September 08, 2014 3:31:29 PM Luckily, we have a policy that dictates that if an MD on scene wants to tell us what to do they have to get permission from on-line med control. AND they have to present us with valid credentials. AND they have to come with us via ground... usually those three things cause people to walk away. And anyway, we still have ultimate veto power if we don't like the way things are going...

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