November 16, 2018

Nurse Speaks Out Against Colleagues Who Bully EMS Workers

Nurse Speaks Out Against Colleagues Who Bully EMS Workers

By Cameron Hershey, BSN, RN

Lately, we have all seen the viral sensations to stomp out nursing bullying. While the cause is noble, nurse bullying is not just isolated within the profession. In fact, I could argue some of the worst cases of bullying I have seen in healthcare is initiated by nurses towards those in other patient care positions.

I understand that nursing is full of rivalries. I mean the folks of the ICU and ER can be intermingled better than an Oregonian vegan hipster peddling organic hemp love bracelets to gun-toting, Trump loving ultra-conservatives of the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. 

But there is one relationship I’ve watched many nurses work little to cultivate and in fact, I witness a large lack of understanding and growing disrespect daily. I am talking about the relationship between nurses and those who work in emergency management services (EMS) including - paramedics, EMTs, and other pre-hospital personnel.

Now, I admit there is a large number of nurses that do respect our pre-hospital brothers and sisters. In my opinion, there is also a growing number of those who do not.  Unfortunately, as a Critical Care Transport RN, I am not only witnessing this treatment first hand, I am actually experiencing it!

An Unwritten Hierarchy In Healthcare 

In my experience, there is an odd presumption that those who are pre-hospital are somehow ‘beneath’ those that work within the hospital. That some unwritten hierarchy exists and as such, those who are performing care in the field are not as knowledgeable, have less education, care less for their patients, and don’t work as hard. I’m here to tell you that is far from correct, it’s disgusting,  and it needs to stop.

I cannot count the times I have watched a nurse treat an EMS crew with disrespect when they have brought in a patient. And trust me, I understand, we as nurses are overworked and busy.  On the other hand, have you ever imagined completing your work, alone, in the back of a 5’x8’ box barreling down a bumpy highway with limited time?

I have personally witnessed behavior on behalf of nurses directed towards paramedics that make me cringe

  • I watched nurses scoff at EMS crews for failing to start an IV, criticize a dressing, or even ‘allow’ the patient to urinate on themselves. 
  • I have watched NPs and Triage nurses grill paramedics as if they were hiding some bit of information or were purposely avoiding a treatment. 
  • I have seen hospital staff ignore crews that have arrived with a patient, watched them navigate a hospital they don’t know well, and ready the patient in the room, moving them to the bed, and THEN decide to come to greet them while criticizing how they moved items around. 
  • I have listened to staff groan and moan about the cleanliness of their patients, the lack of knowledge an EMS crew has, or even the miscalculation of an ETA.

We’re All In This Together: Support And Inclusivity Across Healthcare Teams 

In all honesty, if you have never worked pre-hospital, then you cannot imagine the skill level it actually takes. The level of multitasking, assessment skills, improvisation, critical thinking, and medical knowledge required is nothing short of astounding. 

In fact, due to the lack of understanding I have personally witnessed, I believe all ER, ICU and Critical Care nurses should be required to participate in at least 24 hours worth of ‘clinicals’ with both ALS and BLS pre-hospital crews to perhaps give us a better understanding of what they have to deal with daily.

So, to hospital staff, nurses, doctors, unit secretaries, CNAs, and all others, understand that these crews have fewer resources, less time, and less support than you could ever work with, and often they not only stabilize your patient so you can care for them, but they maintain cordial even when you are not. 

It’s time to respect our EMS crews, stop the bullying, and realize they do what many of you couldn’t. We are all working towards the same goal of saving lives and we’re all in this together.


Follow Cameron Hershey on Instagram @traumacam and on his blog 


Next Up: Sign The Pledge: Nurses Support Their Young

Image courtesy of Harborview Medical Center

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