Privileged glimpses 14: You’re probably not an emergency service

This series of blog posts first appeared a few years ago on a now defunct blog called ‘Care Training’. It was inspired by the training maxim of ‘making the unconscious conscious’. It is intended to take what really ought to be the most basic principles of health and social care and put them down on paper. The series isn’t only an exercise in stating the obvious though whatever the title might suggest. It’s actually intended as a philosophical foundation manual for workers and informal carers to help them get their care ‘on track’ and then to keep it that way.

In the last post we covered the saviour fantasy and the importance of sticking to what we know, what we’re trained for and what we are equipped to do. This post has a similair theme but with far more obvious consequences. But before we get into that let’s begin with a little definition.

In the social care context an ‘emergency’ is something that requires emergency services to deal with it. Non emergency staff may have a supporting role to play in the proceedings but they are not responsible for sorting out emergencies and they are not expected to place themselves at risk by ‘going in’ untrained, unequipped and unprepared.

Emergency services

If it doesn’t need emergency services it’s not an emergency. It may be something that’s better sorted out sooner than later but it’s not worth putting yourself or others at risk simply because other people don’t want to wait until it’s safe or until the appropriate staff are present.

If you work in healthcare the same basic rules apply although you may legitimately be the appropriate person to deal with it. If so you will have been trained to do so and you should know the limits of your responsibilities very clearly. If you’re not able to deal with the emergency then call someone who can.

Emergency services are:

  • Fire
  • Police
  • Ambulance
  • Coastguard
  • Mountain Rescue

All can be contacted by calling 999 or whatever internal emergency code your organisation uses (for example to summon the identified crash team in a general hospital).

If you’re a support worker in sheltered housing or a community care assistant for example then it’s not your job to deal with emergencies. Your job is to offer what assistance you can whilst help is on the way but only so long as it is safe to do so.

If you doubt this consider…

Would a fireman prefer to deal with one unconscious casualty or with one unconscious casualty and a disorientated amateur with no respirator or training in how to deal with smoke?

Would a paramedic prefer to deal with your injured colleague immediately or when you got around to calling 999 after trying to apprehend the assailant?

Would a policeman prefer to apprehend an assailant or deal with an assailant and organise help for a second vicitm as well?

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