The Good Samaritan: Nursing while off duty

super-heroesOn a recent flight, the pilot suddenly began having chest pains, sweating, and was unable to continue flying.  As often happens in these cases, a call went out to the passengers, asking if any medically trained personnel were on board.

Two nurses stepped forward as they dragged the pilot out of the cockpit.  They went to work on the man who was clearly having an MI, edging toward complete arrest.

The nurses managed to start an IV, administer some drugs, and keep the patient stable until they could make an emergency landing.  Would you step up to help someone in need if you were called on outside of the hospital setting?

Deciding to Help

You may feel like shrinking away when you see a person in need of medical attention.  Some don’t want to get involved, some aren’t sure what the rules are, and some just don’t think it is any of their business.

Deciding to help is a personal decision.  If you don’t feel comfortable working outside of the hospital setting, at least get someone to the scene that has experience with emergency medicine.

If you’re a pediatric nurse who happens to see a car wreck, you may think that you are not qualified to give help.  In fact, you could help to stabilize the patients until the paramedics arrive and ensure that the patients make it to quality care.

When others in the community need medical help, our initial response is to jump in and be the nurses we are.  However, you should consider a few issues before you make the decision to become involved, because it can get tricky for the nursing Good Samaritan.

Safety and Legal Concerns

Most emergency professionals are trained to ensure the scene is safe before running to a victim.  For instance, if you stop by where a shooting occurred, you cannot be 100 percent sure that the shooter isn’t still lurking around, waiting to make sure the person dies.

For this reason, you should approach emergencies with caution.  Even in places that are safe – such as the aircraft – you may not have the materials you will need, though you certainly have more knowledge than those around you.

Legal considerations should be thought of as well.  Most states have laws protecting good Samaritans, but in a litigious society, it isn’t unheard of to be sued for merely trying to help.

Most nurses, though, will not be put off by either of these problems.  We face legalities and dangers every day when we take care of patients, and it makes no difference if we find them in a hospital bed or along the side of the road.

Being the Hero

If you do stop to help, you may run the risk of being the hero.  The nurses who helped save the life of the airplane pilot were interviewed for countless newspapers as heroes.

Some nurses are uncomfortable with this.  Although we are all heroes for what we do for patients, we aren’t really accustomed to getting the laser focus attention for doing what we consider is our job and calling.

Getting involved could mean that your name gets in the paper, that people want to know your story, and that you will be considered someone to emulate.  This isn’t really a reason to not get involved, but it should be considered if you are faced with the situation of nursing out in the field.

Most nurses would stop, would step up, would help.  I know that I would, and some of you may have in the past.  The important point to take away is that you understand what you are getting yourself into and are prepared to take the consequences of a selfless act of heroism.

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