A recent webinar featured experienced pilots Captain Dick Blanchet, Major Ben Blanchet, and Captain Chris Guerra as panelists as well as Rob Lawrence of the Richmond Ambulance Authority, who moderated the discussion on safety and Crew Resource Management (CRM) in both the aviation and EMS industries.
Safety in EMS
The discussion opened with Captain Blanchet, who also has 22 years of experience as a paramedic, talking about ambulance accidents and crashes.
“There are many factors,” said Captain Blanchet, “in order to avoid having accidents and crashes. The key thing of course is having good systems in place, having good training, good protocols, and actually working, living, and breathing those through training and practice and simulation.”
The audience was then presented with a poll question: Have you or has your organization experienced an injury or crash? 66% of the audience said yes, 27% said no, 6% were unsure.
Crew Resource Management
One of the keys to creating a safer environment for both pilots and EMTs is Crew Resource Management. Major Blanchet discussed the concept of “Just” culture in the context of CRM. According to Major Blanchet, “Just culture is a term that refers to an atmosphere of trust in which people are encouraged and even rewarded for providing essential safety related information but are also clear about the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.”
The conversation shifted to Captain Guerra who elaborated on CRM and the idea of the team being greater than the individual. He said that CRM is “this idea that we cannot do this alone and that, as you'll see here, we don't categorize ourselves here as an individual pilot or an individual medic. We're a crew and that's one of the things that in aviation, especially in the last few years anyhow, we've really tried to separate. There's a difference between being an excellent pilot and an excellent crew member.” To sum up CRM as simply as possible: “It's recognizing that you alone don't have all the answers and to get every brain in the game.”
This sense of teamwork is essential in the cockpit. According to Guerra, pilots don’t take turns flying but rather “while one person may be doing the flying, the other person is equally charged with monitoring.”
A big part of CRM, in the words of moderator Rob Lawrence, is “not about who is right. It's about what is right.”
Though CRM seems to be a crucial factor in safety, it doesn’t seem like a lot of EMS agencies are implementing defined programs. When asked if their organization had a defined crew resource management program, 23% said yes, 60% said no, 15% said they were unsure.
Learning from Mistakes
Lawrence continued on the subject of CRM, talking about the importance of improvement over punishment:
“The thing that we do on day one is the chief executive stands up in front of the guys that have just arrived […] and [he] talks about safety, talks about culture of safety, and talks about the ability to self-report, the fact that it's not punitive and that what we do from that is that we learn—we don't punish. […] If I make a mistake and even though I don't think I've got caught or anything at it, I can report it and say hey—here's how I got led down the path to making this mistake.”
Throughout the webinar, there were a few other poll questions relating to CRM and safety:
- Have you ever been criticized on scene for a long response time? 84% said yes, 15% said no.
- Does the vehicle you operate have technical safety recording devices installed today? 44% said yes, 49% said no, 6% were unsure.
- Have you been in organizations such as the military where checklists were commonly used? 70% said yes, 29% said no.
Watch the full webinar: