Communicate better if you want to provide better patient care

Timely and accurate communication with your dispatching agency leads to better patient outcomes


Paul McFarlane

2/11/20232 min read

Emergency responders such as paramedics and event medics are often the first to be called when someone is injured or unwell. They will provide initial patient care and once stabilised, will prepare the patient to move efficiently through the health care system.

The most effective medics are not just capable and competent clinicians, they also communicate well with their colleagues and with their dispatching agency. They will use their words and their actions so that the patient gets the best care possible.

When first responders arrive at an emergency scene, they need to quickly assess the situation and make treatment decisions based on the information they receive. If they are unable to communicate effectively with their patient and other clinicians, they may miss important details, make incorrect decisions, or waste valuable time.

Throughout my 30 year career in health care and the emergency services, I have observed that the most common point of failure in our system, is when we fail to communicate with our colleagues and those that have dispatched us to the incident.

One of the things I find most frustrating when I command events is when you send a crew to an incident and then there is radio silence! Too often when a medic establishes patient contact and starts assessing and treating their injuries, they forget about the need to maintain contact with the ones who sent them.

If you work in isolation and don’t stay in touch with those who are coordinating medical resources, this can lead to the patient receiving sub-optimal care. However, providing regular patient updates, situation reports (sitreps), and sharing your extrication and transport plans, means that everyone is aware of what you and the patient need so that they receive the best outcome.

Regular, timely and accurate reports from scene will allow your agency to quickly back you up for if needed, send advanced clinicians or additional resources, and also alert the receiving hospital about the disposition of the patient that will soon be arriving so they can also prepare.

Let’s not focus just on our patient care and our medical equipment, let's also utilise the communication devices we have been provided with to ensure we are communicating to the best of our ability as well. Clear, concise, and accurate communication is essential to ensure that everyone on the team is working towards the same goal. The patient will then get the best treatment and lives will be saved.