Call for Advice (And Blatant Whoring)

Two posts in one day? Surely not!
This post has very little to do with actual ambulance work, and is more a request for advice.

As I may have mentioned before (in various comments if nothing else), our ambulances don't have restraints on the trolley beds, something that I happen to think is a real danger, both for patients and for the crews transporting them. Having had a chat with management, they have agreed that if I can put together a proposal then we can take it to the health and safety/vehicle equipment steering groups.

So my first request would be, if anyone has any useful supporting evidence (or evidence that doesn't support) the use of restraints in ambulances, I'd be grateful if you could point me in that direction.

Next up, I'm looking to learn another language – I know that I can't get my head around French, and I would like to have the language be actually useful to me. So my question is, what language should I learn to most be able to communicate with the non-English speakers in Newham. (Yes I do think that if you live in England then you should make some effort to learn the language, and that spending 10 years in the country and not being able to understand the language is rather disgraceful, but I am a pragmatist).

I'm thinking that Bangladeshi would be a pretty good choice as Newham has the second largest population in the country, with Tower Hamlets next door having the highest population. But perhaps Arabic would be a good language to learn as we have nearly 25% Muslims in Newham, and I'm led to believe (perhaps incorrectly) that Arabic is a Muslim common language. Maybe I should just do a little survey of the people who I pick up, who don't speak English…

Suggestions via email or the comments areas please.

Finally, it's the time of year for the Bloggies, where you the public vote for your favourite blogs. While it might be seen as blatant whoring, I've seen lots of other blogs do it, so I'll ask those interested to nominate me in either the Best British or Irish, or Best Topical blog (or both…I'm not fussy).

32 thoughts on “Call for Advice (And Blatant Whoring)”

  1. British sign language would be another one to add to the list. I know I'm more likely to use that than French. Only problem with learning Bangladeshi or some other language that would actually be useful is that all the hospitals will be dragging you in as an interpreter for ever more.And what's the phrase – “I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine” as far as nominations are concerned.

  2. If you can't get your head around French Arabic isn't going to be a walk in the park and the literary arabic is quite different from the more everyday versions.I am told if you learn Hindi you get the bonus of understanding some Urdu and Punjabi but it will be no help structure and vocabulary for Bangadeshi or Gujurati.

    Keep an eye out for Farsi. Should cover the more recent arrivals.

  3. Good idea with the BSL idea, although if there is that much trouble I tend to use a notepad (which the deaf person tends to carry around with them for just such a purpose). Also I don't tend to come across many people who are so profoundly deaf that they use BSL as their main language.And as for back scratching…it was already done yesterday…

  4. I've never seen Magnolia – although from your description it looks like I may have to…And thanks for the votes – I may as well whore myself out…seems like every other blog is as well.

  5. I'm going to take your advice and try and tackle Urdu, as a local I guess you have a better idea than I do. (I try not to talk to my patients unless I really have to…)It seems though, that there are certain litle groups of families who don't speak English, and so when I enter their homes I end up having to be translated via an 8year old who has learnt English from school. I imagine that these families don't travel much beyond Green street, where they don't need to speak English.

  6. I don't think the “I am English” thing would work anymore, given Blair's desire to suck up to America…Arabic, like Russian just sounds like a good language, and it'd come in handy shoul I ever want to change jobs and become a spy for HMG…

  7. Thanks.That is pretty much the advice that I was looking for, coupled with PP's suggestion it looks like I'll be searching out the best way to learn Urdu (and I'll get plenty of practice in speaking it just day to day).

  8. We have seat belt type affairs on opur stretchers (which are to be used at all times), but they are useless against the person determined to do themselves (or more importantly myself) harm. We are now allowed to essentially kidnap people who are incapable of giving consent – but are not given any way to transport reluctant patients safely.Which is why I'm pushing for 4 point restraints.

  9. Why not try Afrikaans, since you can swear in it already? 🙂 I'm dying to know what words you know! I guess it will not be much help with you patients though…

  10. Arabic to most Muslims from outside actual Arabic speaking countries is a bit like Hebrew is for Jews, just something they learn to recite the phrases from the Koran or Torah, although most would be able to pronounce Arabic text it is another matter entirely to translate it.I'm trying to start to learn Arabic, primarily from a written word point of view as one of my interests is calligraphy and historical examples of Arabic script can be very beautiful to read and write, it might also prove useful as Arabic blogging is likely to become a hot issue in the coming years.

  11. Perhaps you could just learn a few phrases in a few languages – things like 'please don't worry, we are taking you to hospital', 'stop hitting me' and 'if you've had it for three weeks, it's not an emergency, is it?'. Or have them written down so you can do some sort of flash-card arrangement…

  12. Hi Tom,I stumbled upon this blog a couple of days ago and found it such good reading that, since then, have read it from the start to the present day. Sorry; I probably owe you something for all the bandwidth chewing, but then I'd say you owe me an essay for which you provided me with a phenomenal amount of procrastination material!

    Anyway, just wanted to say that I think your blog is excellent. You show compassion where it's due, without being condescending, and possess a sense of humour that really makes reading about your day-to-day work a pleasure. You'll certainly be getting my nominations 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing what's to come and I hope my LiveJournal usage can be compensated by the fact that I play a number of instruments and at least used to be bilingual 😉

    Take care,


  13. Pardon me for a potentially boneheaded clarification here, but restrained like “don't jostle around on the cot / keep your arms in on the stairs / don't hit the back door when we gun it?” Because if it's that, you can just get normal retracting-centrifugal-clutch-type or manually-tightening kind of seatbelts that have a carabiner on either end for which you should be able to find a home on the cot…(some even using the manual-tightening kind as their backboard strap.) Ambos in my neighborhood run everyone with one of these on their lap and one across the chest. Kids go in a car seat.If it's more for a “stop hitting me / I'm not Satan / put down that needle” purpose, we have soft restraints that go around the wrists and ankles, and a somewhat elaborate but still usable protocol for using them that might have some ideas for you… (For a particular laugh, check out the “verbal” restraint portion that precedes the “physical” and (medic-only) “chemical” restraints. Of course, most of those people we get that would need to be restrained that way come from a scene with the cops, and are going to ultimately stay in their hands at the hospital, so we go with the old reliable – handcuffs applied by (and under the liability of) a cop, who then rides in the back with us.

  14. arabic is a bit of a misnomerBSL – you have to get it to a high standard otherwise the signers get very upset at the system throwing a poor signer at them.

    so as someone has already said – maybe the basic words in a handful of languages. if you are targeting the area of newham , then perhaps ask newham council what languages they cover for the publications and the breakdown percentages. maybe that will give a target to aim for. perhaps they could even help you get started.

  15. Filter seems to have pulled out the link to our protocols, so I'll try again: You can find them on the front page of M I E M S S (Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems) . O R G (who, by the way, gather all of our runsheets, are very friendly and sort of an academic bent, and will probably, if asked nicely enough, go analyze our run sheets and tell you if anyone got hurt while restrained…)

  16. If you'll recall the ambulance scene from Magnolia, where they're hauling off Julianne Moore's character after her overdose, restraints were needed because it started raining frogs. The driver lost control and the ambulance flipped on its side. If she hadnt been wearing a restraint she might have falled off the gurney and suffered more injuries. Just a thought if you want to shock management with your 'all-terrain' thinking. Or they might just laugh.Consider yourself voted for (in as many categories as possible!)

  17. Urdu would be of the most benefit for you. Most of the Muslim people round here (I live in Plaistow) do not understand Arabic, save for reciting the Qu'ran. And pretty much everyone in south Asia can get by with Urdu even if it is not their first language- that is, according to my mates. It's a multipurpose one that.If I was to learn a language for use in the borough I'd pick Urdu, based on my knowledge of 'what language people speak at home.'

    However I don't know of anyone who's been here ten years and can't speak English, except people born either deaf or with severe learning difficulties of course. I assume you exclude them?


  18. Which would you like to do in the long run – work for the LAS until you draw your pension (in which case, learn Urdu) – or put something new in your “portfolio” of skills that could open doors to other possibilities? It used to be that Yemeni Arabic was considered the “purest”, and in your place I would learn to speak it before I tried reading or writing it. (Part of my childhood was spent in Arabic-speaking countries, and although I remember how to speak some Arabic I could not read or write it to save my life.) Arabic is cool. And when you go abroad on holiday, you'll be able to say in the lingo “I am English, not American, so please put that gun down” and haggle for Persian carpets in the merchant's mother tongue. Merchant will be so impressed. And you might be able to get a job as a Queen's Messenger (I would love to do this but I guess it's probably too late now).Rachel in SE7

  19. Been reading your blog for a while now, and today finally know the topic enough to actually give my opinion!Coming from a Pubjabi speaking background myself, I know that Punjabi and Hindi speakers both tend understand Urdu, as do Bengali speakers. Gujrati speakers also understand and speak Urdu. There are probably only a minority of Muslim people in East London who actually speak or understand Arabic. Arabic in its purest form is mostly for reading the Qur'an, which incidentally is not written in the Arabic that Arabs actually speak today.

    However Arabic although challenging is a beautiful language. So if you want a challenge for the New Year, learn Arabic, and if you want your choice of language to help with the work you do, Urdu or Hindi is probably your best bet!!

    Good Luck!

  20. Our new vehicles were fitted with stretcher clamps that prevent the stretcher from moving and consequently possibly killing someone of the vehicle rolls and is guaranteed up to a certain amount of Gs (not sure what). There is no point in doing this if pateints and staff are bouncing around in the back crashing into cupboards, kit and each other because they are not strapped in.Our seats have 3 point seat belts, one also has a kiddy harness, and the stretchers have lap and leg belts.

    One of our vehicles was involved in an RTA last week, a ?drunk driver ran a red light and went into the side of the vehicle putting a big hole in it. There was a paramedic in the back looking after an old dear with #NOF. If she hadn't been strapped in, she might have been in a worse state than she was.

    Any use to you?

  21. Mr Reynolds i really believe you could be the Andy McNabb of the ambulance world and write a great action packed book about being in the ambulance service. Do you have a catchy call sign you could call it?

  22. We do have a liitle booklet for things like that, and there is always Language line which is a helpful translation service. But I'd really like to learn a new language. Just one of the ways I'm looking to improve myself.

  23. We do have seatbelts, but they aren't that useful to stop people from (a) hitting us, or (b) jumping out the back of the ambulance while doing 50mph down the A13.Out police aren't very happy to handcuff people who are then going to be travelling in the back of an ambulance (can't say I blame them really). I like the idea of soft restraints for the demented little old lady who feels the need to give my balls a squeeze if I stand over her…

  24. Maybe you should go to the local council and ask for the numbers of foreign speaking people in London, and find out what the most popular language is 2nd to english?I would also concider learning basic sign language as I find knowing the basics myself, that the deaf appreciate your trying and can grasp what your trying to say. I learnt basic sign language due to the fact my town has the only live in deaf college and school in the country.

    Liz + Bump, 19 weeks and 6 days ( Not long to go now!)

  25. I cover the seat belt with a blanket, suitabley confused/stupid people can't work out why they can't get off the stretcher.Another option is this thing called “the police” as we are not allowed to kidnap or restrain people.

    Bloke on my motor the other day got aggresive so I got shirty back, got my mate to pull over and we dispatched the patient to the pavement. Job done. Saying that, he didn't really need to go to hospital, he was one of those who “knows his rights” and “pay your wages”.

  26. You're entering a dangerous world here. Every patient who is not under section has the right to leave your vehicle (hopefully not at 50 mph) so I would guess the answer is not to convey patients who need restraining without the standard 42 police officers in tow. Yes I know some people will just kick off with no notice but to be honest restraints won't help there either cos it'll be to late. Truth is, stop the motor, get out and if the patient smashes it up I'm sure someone at K1 will replace it for you. Restraints will not make crews safer, they'll just cause conflict.

  27. But (and apologies for everyone who doesn't work for the LAS), with the new guidelines training, you can take people without their consent if they are 'incapable' of giving consent (confused/demented/serious head injury/mashed brain). So we can take people against their will – just not safely.I do agree that the police are the first people who should be involved, but I'm sure you know that they can often take a while to turn up – they tend to be busier than us. Also I have a belief that soft restraints would be a lot safer, and more comfortable than having six coppers 'sit' on you.

    It's more the confused patient that I think restraints should be used for, rather than the just violent ones (who I'll quite happily leave to smash up an ambulance if it keeps them happy)

    Also, just because we will have the option to tie Dotty Doris down, doesn't mean that you have to. It'll be rare to use restraints, but when you do need to use them, it'll come in handy.

  28. OK – I think I arrived too late to offer anything new re advice on the language topic. I think it's already been said – but to summarise:* Most Muslims in UK are from Indo-subcontinent (i.e. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh etc.) and speak Urdu – not Arabic.

    * Arabic is the language used to recite Koran – not spoken as a language except in Arabic countries.

    * Urdu originally hails from India (before partition of East and West Pakistan) – and is the more “persian influenced” form of the Sanskrit-derived language that was spoken in India. The other not-so-persian-influenced Indian language mostly spoken in india was/is Hindi – and when both Urdu and Hindi are spoken in “informal” (street) forms then they are most very similar. However – when they are both spoken in their “formal” forms then they are incomprehsible to each other's speakers!

    * So – informal Urdu will also help you understand informal Hindi as well as Punjabi (which is what I can speak). These three languages are the most commonly spoken (other than English of course!) in London – and probably UK.

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