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Lack of compassion was the crime

Compassion elevates emergency medical care to a ministry of kindness


“There is no law that says an EMT needs to be compassionate but there should be,” writes Weiss.

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On Jan. 30, 2023, the Memphis Fire Department fired members of Engine 55 for violating numerous policies and protocols during Tyre Nichols’ arrest.

According to the Fire Department, Engine 55 was dispatched to the scene, and when they arrived, Nichols was on the ground in handcuffs, leaning against a police car.

The result of the investigation by the Fire Department was that the EMTs, who were called for a person being pepper sprayed, failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment on Nichols ... and after their initial interaction with him, they requested an ambulance, which got there about 15 minutes after EMTs arrived.

During this 15 minutes, they gave no other treatment to Nichols.

Compassion is not a protocol

EMS protocols are the recognized operating procedures that all EMS professionals must follow for patient assessment, treatment, transportation and delivery to definitive care.

EMS protocols are designed by national, state and local medical authorities and institutions. They are reviewed regularly and revised according to new assessment tools and treatments.

When protocols are revised, updated and amended, they are published and distributed to all emergency medical services providers within the jurisdiction.

It is the ongoing responsibility of the EMS departments to train all of their providers on the revised protocols.

Compassion is not a protocol.

Compassion is something that emanates from a true EMT and is obviously apparent on scene, no matter what the situation.

Compassion sets the EMT apart from others at the scene and prevents the EMT from including judgement or opinion into their care of the patient.

Compassion is what causes an EMT to never see a “suspect,” but rather filters the picture allowing them to only see a “patient.”

Compassion drives an EMT to push past the surrounding noise and chaos in order to reach the patient.

Compassion pushes the EMT to provide the best care possible for as long as possible, no matter what the suspected or expected outcome may be.

Compassion is what generates the energy to treat a patient for great lengths of time, despite any sign that the effort is pointless.

Compassion reminds the EMT that pain is unpleasant and that being in pain is an emotional experience and not just a physical experience.

Compassion reminds an EMT that pain can cause physiologic responses that can have negative effects on the body and that it is the directive of EMS to provide release from that emotional aspect of pain.

Compassion releases kindness from the heart, mind and mouth of the EMT in such a manner that the treatment becomes a ministry of kindness and not just medical care.

Moving forward with compassion

These members of the Memphis Fire Department do not represent the nation’s 240,000-plus EMTs and I doubt that they ever did. Compassion inspires someone to become an EMT. It is not learned. It is not from training. It is not directed by others.

The night that Nichols encountered Memphis law enforcement has been (thanks to unbelievable video) forever seared into our brains. The names of those who hurt Nichols and the names of those who neglected to care for him will soon be forgotten, as it should be.

As we move forward, we should appreciate the thousands of EMTs driven by compassion each and every day, but perhaps those in administrative positions should begin to assess those they direct and determine if they should be there to begin with.

The law will make its case, and training, protocols and procedures will be thrown about the courtrooms, but the real truth is that these professionals failed to be compassionate, which means they were not operating as EMTs to begin with.

A million thanks to the true EMTs out there.

There is no law that says an EMT needs to be compassionate but there should be.


Read more:

‘Remember what you witnessed’: Memphis is a wake-up call for emergency services

I know Memphis Fire, and while the inactions of three members should not reflect on the entire FD, we must learn from these fatal errors

E.G. Weiss is nationally active in consequence management consulting, research and development, forensic science and as a security/threat analyst, while continuing to train and speak at conferences.