'Cardiac Arrest – Mental Health Unit'
My regular crewmate was sunning herself in France and I had someone working with me who'd only been out of training school for her first practical experience for the last two weeks. I'd already done one job with her and she seemed totally sensible.
“We'd better take all the kit in”, I told her while buckling my seatbelt, “this could be anything from a cardiac arrest to a blocked nose”.
It is somewhat telling that when we get sent to a mental health unit, no matter what they have called us for, we never quite know what to expect. It's one thing to accept that a member of the public can't tell 'chest pain' from 'bellyache', it's quite another to have such mix-ups from a healthcare professional.
We arrived at the unit to discover an ambulance already there – it would seem that we were being sent as a second pair of hands. Sure that the first crew would have all their kit we still took ours in, you can never be too careful.
The door to the unit was locked, so I leant on the buzzer and one of the nurses came towards the door with the normal foot-dragging shuffle that I see a lot in these sorts of unit. She opened the door and stood there with her mouth open.
“Cardiac arrest?”, I asked striding past her.
“In”, was all she said.
I kept walking, obviously the patient was 'in' the unit, but where?
As we reached the end of the corridor I saw a group of people, all wearing unit ID badges standing around with their arms crossed watching two of my fellow ambulance staff working the resus. I relaxed somewhat when I saw who it was, the crew who were already there are one of the good ones ('I'd trust them to treat my mother' as we say in the service). The medic was passing a breathing tube while the other was doing CPR.
So, my crewmate and I bundled in and gave our assistance, it was a fairly straightforward resuscitation to be honest, CPR, breathing tube, IV access, drugs, more CPR.
What annoyed me was that the 'crash team'* from this unit were standing around watching us work – no offers to help, no-one suggesting that they get IV access, no-one offering to take over the CPR from EMT who started some minutes ago**
No help, no talking – just standing there watching. Doctors and nurses seemingly not knowing what to do at a cardiac arrest, yet still on the 'crash team', watching four stretcher-monkeys getting on with it, making the decisions, performing the interventions. We are lower status, are on lower pay, and yet we were the ones having to take charge.
I wondered what they were doing while they were waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
We took the patient to hospital, where they sadly died.
I mention this, not to celebrate ambulance crews, but more to show my concern that the hospital unit staff seemed so aimless. The scary thing is that this sort of occurrence doesn't seem all that unusual. At least where I work.
*A Crash team is a group of doctors and nurses that come running in the event of a cardiac arrest
**I understand that the latest guidelines, in America at least, is that you swap whoever is doing CPR every two minutes because it's too tiring.