You didn’t know this?

Code 3 for sick person with a headache and abnormal breathing.

Abnormal breathing? MPDS and its “priority symptoms” are really annoying.

A disinterested firefighter waves us down a long driveway, flanked on both sides by dilapidated living units.

“We come here all the fucking time.”

It’s a 30-year-old woman with a headache. She’s carrying her baby in a car seat and walking toward the ambulance from her residence with the rest of the fire crew. Apparently the second adult woman who hands her the car seat can’t watch the baby.

“She can’t watch the baby?”

“We already went through all that with her.”

“Sorry guys. Just asking. Get in.”

This woman is flat, impolite, doesn’t want to answer questions and obviously has some sort of mental and/or personality defect. I keep the interactions to a bare minimum and taxi her to the ED.

She walks into the ED, and a few minutes later, the charge nurse approaches.

“Can she go to the waiting room so we can fast-track her through Quick Care and get rid of her?”

“Of course.”

“OK, walk her out there, and let me just get the doc to make sure she’s OK with this.”

As the patient plays on her phone, the ED attending comes over.

“What’s she here for?”


“People call you guys for headaches?”

“People call us for all kinds of unbelievably stupid stuff. You didn’t know this working in the ED?”

One thought on “You didn’t know this?”

  1. Of all the stupid things in the “card” type triage systems, the “normal breathing” one is the greatest cause of false priority dispatch. It’s pretty obviously the work of a doctor, because no other type of human on earth could be so fucking stupid.

    If that stupid fucking question was eliminated from the “all callers” list of of questions the card systems might actually be worth half a shit.

    My partners and I automatically dropped to slow response mode when the complaint was something like “Headache…. with trouble breathing”, because we knew that a cancellation would come as soon as the BLS crew got a look at the patient.

    Not that I have any strong feelings on the subject.

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