I happened to see something frightening last night: the written run report of a colleague, one of my fellow Borg drones.
Now, we have a computerized reporting system at The Borg. We also have the option to dictate our run reports, phoning them in to a 24-hour medical transcriptionist, using a standardized reporting template. Sadly, the dictation option is being phased out because 75% of the medics who use it are too damned stupid to follow the standardized reporting template provided by the company.
Our computerized reporting system has an integral spell-checker. Like most spell-checkers, it catches some things and not others, and it isn’t particularly good with technical language.
Now, this colleague has been a paramedic for over a year now. He should be well into the groove, past his new-paramedic jitters. He’s still not the sharpest scalpel in the drawer, but hey, he obtained a high school diploma, passed an EMT-B course and its subsequent national certification exam, and a full paramedic course and its subsequent certification exam.
Yet his run report, the one he hands to ER doctors and nurses, was so full of paraglyphics* as to be incomprehensible and the words he did spell out were some real doozies:
Like aspration namona in the block for Chief Complaint.
Or sepis, psycho and ostoarthritius in the section for Past Medical History.
And the sad thing is, he’s not a rarity. I’ve seen others almost as bad. His run narrative was a personal injury lawyer’s wet dream. It just screamed “down payment on a new Mercedes!”
What’s worse is that, when he turns in semi-literate gibberish like this, it doesn’t just reflect poorly on him. It reflects poorly on me as well.
The doctors that don’t know me assume that I’m just as incompetent as he is, because that is their reference point for EMS. The doctors that do know me tell me I’m wasting my time and talents as a paramedic. Even a mediocre medic shines like a diamond compared to the unpolished turds like my colleague. Next to Mongo Medic with the dubba digit vocabalerry, I look like friggin’ Gregory House, MD.
If we’re ever going to make this EMS 2.0 dream a reality, turds like my colleague are going to have to be flushed. Problem is, there are so many of them that we may well back up the plumbing doing it.
Paraglyphics (noun): the use of abbreviations, symbols and EMS jargon in such volume as to render the report indecipherable to anyone but the paramedic who wrote the report.