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Friday, August 19, 2011

"When Amateur's Attack..." - Well, not really. How about when they get caught on camera?

Please click on the link below.  Watch it in its entirety, then read the article below. 

Original video was shot by Jerry McCrea of "The Star Ledger". 

A recent shooting of two people in Boonton, NJ as they walked with their three year-old son has left this Morris County town, and its emergency responders, reeling.  The event triggered the obligatory news coverage including the video linked above above.  

A fellow paramedic called my attention to the video he posted on his Facebook page.  He was deeply disturbed by the video.  There were already over 25 pretty angry responses insulting, shaming and blaming the EMT for perhaps a bit more than she could possibly be responsible for.  There were insults to her speech patterns, calls to remove her certification, eliminate her from the field and some other unsavory comments too. Typical responses from a group of otherwise honorable people who are tired of being misrepresented in the media and on TV - especially by (clearing my throat) "one of our own."

I understood where everyone was coming from as the video delivers yet another (as if we needed it) black eye to the emergency medical services as the casual observer can easily assume she is an accurate representation of EMS as a whole, and we're all cut from the same fabric as this young, amateur provider.  

After careful examination of the video, and being as disgusted with it as they were, there was something else glaring at me and it came from the father side of my equation more-so than my paramedic side.  My reply to the group is included below.

"I'm with all the veteran and experienced providers here, but am also looking at the part that screams out here -- she's a baby. She's 21 and rides in a low-volume, suburban system. Her admissions were not those of a veteran EMS professional with years of service and dozens of traumatic experiences in her toolbox. She's a kid. A kid who saw something frightening and possibly life-changing for her. As a father of a 21 year-old, I often have to look past or forgive the un / under-developed thoughts of my daughter. I run into the circumstance where I can be "right" or I can be a good and patient father. I try for the latter.

To pin all the woes of volunteerism, a poor education system, lack of oversight and standards, the battle between paid and unpaid and the unsolvable problem of male pattern baldness on the unrefined words of a little girl, I think, may be just a bit extreme.

Sure it was painful to watch and listen to. She should have deferred to someone else with either the experience or the authority to make a representative statement. She probably didn't know what to do, shit or go blind when a camera and mic appeared before her. She lacked the equanimity that a cadre of speech-writers and a room full of teleprompters offer our president (Sorry Shaq, I couldn't help it. You know I'm teasing!)

She's not the worst representative of an incident I've seen on screen. One only has to go back to late December 2010 when the NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg (not a 21 year-old) made an ass of himself criticizing and slapping the very EMS professionals that endured the insurmountable task of responding to the blizzard of all blizzards.

As stated, what she said was wrong in so many ways and embarrassing in even more ways, maybe I'm the one who's wrong here, but guys, she's a kid. Nothing more."
I suppose my point is this.  If you're new to the biz, are not a designated PIO (Public Information Officer), have no experience with media relations, don't fall into the trap of opening your yap.  "No comment." or "Please direct your questions to..." work just fine.

To my veteran brothers and sisters I'll summon a Chinese proverb; 'Do not remove a fly from your friend's head with a hatchet.'   This EMT, if she remains in the field, is going to have to live her life as being "that girl."  The one who fell apart, abandoned a patient, made unqualified statements about the presence or absence of life of the patient etc...  Her life, like all of ours, is not summed up in one moment in time.  Her life, like ours, should be judged on nothing less than its' entirety.

What say you?


  1. Ok,so I'm not nearly as forgiving as you Steve. But...When I was a 21y/o EMT I knew 2 things.. 1. Defer the press to the senior officer and 2. There's no such thing as "phone a friend". She abandoned her crew, thats unforgivable. Hopefully this will be her lesson to quit as clearly EMS not her calling.

  2. The following comment is being pasted here until I get some answers on why people can't leave comments. This person also wanted to remain anonymous in his/her answer.


    I would have to agree with you. Put simply: she was an inexperienced provider in a suburban EMS system which probably has a low call volume. For those who do not know, Boonton is not a Newark, Camden, Trenton, or Jersey City. It is a very quiet town with those who go about their lives.

    Calling for this girl’s certification to be revoked, suspended or anything of that nature is just ignorant. It is true she will always be regarded as “that girl” and there is no doubt in my mind this is another “black eye”.

    Point of Order: Isn’t it our duty, responsibility, or moral obligation to educated and prepare the inexperienced or uneducated? I think that everyone needs to face the cold hard truth that we’re not going to be on this earth forever and we need to start educating those who will carry on doing what we do best. Look, this is not a clandestine little clubhouse we have going on here… We all need to do a better job at playing nice with others instead of immediately ostracizing those who don’t live up to our expectations. Who are we anyway (as providers) to pass such judgment? Who gave EMT’s or Medics the sworn authority to decide who stays and who goes? Last time I checked my patch didn’t have Lady Justice embroidered on it.
    I’m calling out all those who think, know, or feel they are Professional Pre-hospital Care Providers to step up and be an adult. Instead of being that person who beats the war drum of simply writing this girl off… try being the one who steps forward with support and educating her.
    Another cold hard truth is we were all there once. We were all inexperienced and we weren’t born professionals… If you were, then please let me meet your parents so I can shake their hands on completing such an insurmountable task (they’ll be the first in recorded history).
    For some of us shootings are just run-of-the-mill, every day events that are a part of our unavoidable inevitability in dealing with. Put simply, Boonton is definitely not this type of area.

    EMS and the word Sympathy go together like oil and water but does anyone stop to think how traumatic this must have been to this girl? People would not be behaving this way if she was their family member! There would be cries for nothing but sympathy.

    ‘Nuff Said… I’m curious to what others have to say.

  3. From Devin Kerins, (blogger Granting "Sirenity") said...


    I haven't figured out how to subscribe yet, even though I write for you, haha. But my response is: A sad fact that has reoccurred through nearly every one of the exercises I've run in NJ is that many EMS agencies and fire departments do not ...have properly trained PIOs. This frustrates the State Police who offer the course for FREE but no one signs up. Furthermore, they provide no further training to their members other than "Don't talk to the media" - which makes the average EMT either look like a complete jerk when they say "No Comment" (incidentally the worst thing you can say to the media) or it makes the average EMT want to talk more because "I know exactly what to say." A better strategy is to develop generic talking points for the crews - i.e. In the case of an MVA, you can say XYZ.

  4. I think people are too critical. All of us were FREAKED OUT by our first really, really bad call. This was hers. She is 21, from a small town, and she was faced with a double homicide with a kid on a sidewalk on a nice street. I'm not sure her crew chief gave her great advice, though- I would have said "If you're getting overwhelmed, take a deep breath and focus on doing one thing now to help these people."

    And I STRONGLY believe that we need to be talking to the press MORE, not less. Every time you say "no comment" and let the police talk is another day that EMS remains marginalized because we are just the people in the background. EMS should be the primary press contact for all events with personal injury. Let the cops talk about crimes and the firefighters talk about burning stuff.

  5. I am not so much angry at this girl Steve. I am more angry that a field I love to work in is still not treated as it should be. NOT A HOBBY! Looking back at my EMS career, I responded to some horrific calls for service starting at the tender age of 16 years old. Thanks to the people I started with in Montclair NJ (most of whom worked at UMD-EMS)they taught me not to panic and how to handle these jobs and more importantly how to handle yourself during and after "the big one" a cheesy term most of is can relate to.

    Looking back while stopping and thinking about it, there is no WAY a 16 year old CHILD should be allowed to do the things I did or see the things I saw. This is a field not for the weak or timid. Nor is it a field for the immature. You are called to assist people during their time of need, and during a time when most people, like this Boonton EMT, turn their heads and vomit or stop and stare because they can't believe what they are seeing aka PANIC. THIS IS NOT A DAM HOBBY. And I take it as an insult to every hard working EMT or paramedic out there who are truly the quiet unsung workhorses in the emergency services triangle. (police fire and EMS)People deserve better than that. Our PROFESSION deserves better than that!

    Forgive me if I sound like I am ranting. I do feel bad for this girl and I do agree that she is very uneducated in the fact that she should not have been talking to the media. More importantly how did she get approached by the media? I don't think the media went and searched out "The EMT who froze at the scene". Did she return to the scene for some reason? Why did her "Captain" not prevent this from happening? Why was there no PIO? Why was there nothing done to prevent this? Again, it's because this is not a field to be used as ones hobby. There should be a policy in place for speaking to the media. I actually feel bad for this girl. But I feel she found out the hard way that this is not a field for her to be in.

  6. Two cliches come to mind:

    "We all gotta start somewhere." For those of us who work in Newark, Jersey City, Camden or somewhere else where shootings and stabbings differ only in how much media coverage that particular incident generated, we often forget that the places where we started were usually not Newark, Jersey City, or Camden. There is a reason why, for the most part, those in charge of hiring in the cities usually don't pick 21-year-olds from places like Boonton, Greenwich Township, or Princeton. I don't recall seeing a gunshot wound til I got to Newark, and this was after a good nine years as an EMT, and seven of those were full-time in Bayonne. What was crucial, however, was the full-time experience on BLS where I had the opportunity to absorb all the other stuff - MVAs, MIs, and the occasional industrial accident - enough for me to go, "Wow, first shooting," instead of "omigodashootinglookatallthebloodthisguyisgonnadiewhatdoIdowhatdoIdowhatdoIdoaaahhhhhhhh!"

    "Don't hate the player, hate the game." This young woman thought it would be (and I'm assuming the best here) a great way to serve her community and give back to those who might have helped her in the past by getting her EMT card and jumping on the ambulance. More exciting than volunteering as a candy-striper, and you get to work outside.

    It is precisely this opportunity that this young woman was afforded that is killing this field in New Jersey, that anyone who has the desire to get on a bus can do so, without regard for proper training and oversight or, apparently, proper uniforms. For this, blame should be directed at the Squad, the First Aid Council, or even the Department of Health (for the lack of guts to step in correct these glaring failures because the First Aid Council balked) for allowing this to develop.

  7. When the interview was first aired in my office, I cringed when it said she was identified as a first responder and squad member - I watched a small amount of content, and after that I barely gave it a second look.


    Because in my view it was nothing more than the usual media tool of exploiting the emotional aftermath of a trauma in order to add drama to the story.

    She wore no uniform, had no patch on. Other than her verbally idenitifying herself as hearing the call and having a "crew chief" there is no way in her tone or stance that would indicate any familiarity with active scenes and certainly not with media interaction. She didn't look like us.

    Her words were rambling, and not peppered with any familiar acronyms, anatomy or operational terms. She didn't speak the language. She didn't sound like us.

    She was shaking as she recounted the story, voice cracking, filled with nervous behaviors and obviously (openly) upset by the experience. She didn't act like us.

    So why didn't I give it a second look? Because I did not view her as representative of the countless professional EMTs and Paramedics I know. I saw her for what she, in truth, really is:

    A distraught bystander picked off by the cunning media who didn't know any better.

    Yes, she may be new to the field and certainly if she is she is functioning in a low volume suburban area - but it was patently obvious that even so, she has no experience and even less coping ability. She summed it up in the begin by saying "I came over to try and help."

    Do or do not, there is no try. That classified her (to me) as not one of us, and therefore I went on with my day.

    The resulting mushroom cloud over this interview is both completely understandable and a little disappointing. Please do not mistake my lack of outrage as being empathetic to the volunteer EMS system. While it can be viewed as a noble and needed service, the archaic structure, lack of evolution and complete lack of accountability have hobbled it, and the profession as a whole. And the whole "don't forget where you came from" argument is not relevant. I never forget, I just do not go backwards, nor should EMS.

    Yes, this young lady is representative of failure - but she personally should not be nailed to a cross made of long splints because she was inadequately prepared to deal with a high profile traumatic situation. Whether that lack of preparation falls on her training, her supporting organization, or her personal abilities is really unimportant. None of us can predict how we will process that first overwhelming call, whether it is filled with blood or just tears of grief.

    It was an absolute mistake for her to speak to the media, whose fault is it? Her, the reporter, the police, her squad? Regardless, in the space of an hour she had her simple little life littered with dead mothers and crying babies and no preparation whatsoever. What she chooses to do with this stumble will be up to her, it will be a lifelong memory for her - either constructive or damaging. which would you prefer? What would you do to prevent it?

    If you're her, or like her - do you seek out training and experience to make sure you never freeze again? If you aren't her, do you offer to go out and teach her ways to work through it and how to do better next time? Take some time to decide, you have at least until the next tragedy falls at your feet or someone begs you to save their family to decide.

    In the meantime, let the little girl off the cross - we need the splints.

  8. I must admit I am torn on this topic. From a professional I find it appalling that the system as a whole failed her and yet I am dismayed that she as an individual had no forethought to look into what Emergency Medical Services was about before she climbed into an ambulance.
    I have been interested in EMS since I was 5, like most I watched how cool it could be to be a paramedic from a TV show on Saturday nights. At 12 years old as young Boy Scout my first merit badge was first aid. Twenty-eight years ago at the young age of 15 I joined my local squad. The glory of Emergency came to a crashing halt, when I went on my first “bad” call; I had 2 excellent EMT’s with me who helped me through it. I can still recall every second of that call; I still vividly remember every emotion I felt. I was able to get through it with guidance.
    Here I am 28 years later and I sound like most of the other career EMS providers, that we should abolish the volunteers; the volunteers are stupid, they have no business being in this industry. While at work, many times I bite my tongue knowing that if I speak to an “EMT” that they will probably complain to the current manager and I will more than likely get in trouble. If they make poor or no patient care choices, I have asked them to exit the ambulance and wait for me to finish my assessment.
    I try not to be negative while at work, I try and involve willing EMT’s in the patient care that we are providing. As I get older I have started to learn to take a step back and think about what the EMT’s on the call are doing, or not doing. I try not to judge the entire squad by 1 or 2 bad crews.

    Part 1 of 2

  9. With that said..I don’t completely fault this young girl; I fault her training and her officers, they failed to properly prepare her for what she might encounter, and how to handle it if she does encounter something that might be above her training up to this point.
    I fault the NJSFAC; An organization who is more interested in control and keeping things the way we used to be rather than realizing just how much of a division they have caused between BLS and ALS. I find it alarming that the NJSFAC is more concerned with “the burden to their volunteers” with regards to the amount of training the state requires and thinks making the certification process 5 years a good idea.
    I fault the State of NJ for being practically powerless to change the training standards, by allowing EMT’s to instruct new EMT students interpreting what they think the EMT student needs to know and skimming over things they are not comfortable teaching. Suburban EMT instructors who have minimal exposure to a call volume that will yield real world experience; makes it difficult for the instructor to instill any confidence or understanding to a new student. Even the new legislation has succumbed to the pressure of the NJSFAC. The changes made to both bills has made it obvious that, EMT’s take virtually NO responsibility and have NO accountability for their lack of training, appalling patient care and their increasing reliance on an overworked ALS system.
    Lastly I fault myself and others like me, we failed her. “The old guard”; seasoned EMT’s and Paramedics who started out as five-pointers, eight-pointers, EMT-A’s and eventually on to paramedicine; who have dedicated their lives and careers to providing pre hospital care to the sick and injured for becoming complacent and apathetic. We have all recognized errors and most of the time we let it go, with the attitude of “What is the state going to do? It’s not worth writing them up.”
    There needs to be a change! I believe in responsibility and accountability. I believe in training and preparing a new member before we thrust them into an environment that they can potentially do themselves or their patient’s harm. When’s the last time you saw an untrained firefighter given a set of gear and told him/her to go inside a burning building and put out a fire. When’s the last time you saw a Police Officer handed a gun and said now go mitigate that fight or hostage situation. So why do we allow new members to ride on the ambulance as “observers”?
    I believe that the system should be changed to restrict the people responsible for training. Instructors should be at a higher level of training and experience than the students they teach. Instructor should have a knowledge base through blogs, instructor updates, and the willingness to convey new techniques and information on subjects that aren’t covered in depth in the books. Guest speakers should be brought in to bring difficult topics into perspective.
    Until we as a profession start caring about the professionalism of EMS and how WE as a collective whole are looked upon as a vital link to survival and not as a third service, or the ambulance driver, the rescue worker or the first responder, this vicious cycle will never be broken.
    Part 2 of 2

  10. I worked EMS for years and was always astonished at the prevalence of a disrespect toward others displayed by members of the service that I termed "the culture of condescension."

    Listening to this girl, I feel nothing but compassion. This a young kid that was drawn into EMS for all the reasons that so many volunteers are. A list of possible explanations of why she reacted the way she did, none of them her fault, are obvious to anyone who is interested in something more than looking for evidence of their own superiority.

    I'm digusted by the comments, and it has reinforced the satisfaction I have felt over the years to have left the profession. There's a greater shame focused on EMS by the people writing these vicious comments. Should I ever be the victim of a misfortune, it pains me to think I may spend my last moments on earth in the presence of such callous people.

  11. Has it been pointed out that she is, in fact, NOT an EMT? It is possible to search out peoples names on the OEMS website. She is nowhere to be found. The poor girl is probably very new to EMS and this was probably her first real bad call. She deserves our benefit of the doubt and also some compassion. I am more upset that the squad didn't advise her not to share any information with anyone not involved with the call. If she was just in for a ride-along, she should have been explicitly informed of that among many other things. If she is truly interested in EMS, I hope she doesn't let the call or the berage of attacks deter her.

  12. I don't know who Anonymous is, and that's probably a good thing. I'd hate to think it was somebody I knew, who is obviously a little jaded at life in general, and EMS in particular.

    A quick read of any of the comments on this blog seems to consistently reinforce the notion that it is not explicitly the fault of the young woman in the video for reacting the way she did, but those whose job it is to see to it that her training and her interaction with the public - including the media - is carefully managed until such time that she can work unsupervised.

    As to comments in other forums, those containing any amount of vitriol, while regrettable, are hardly unique to our profession. Look at any high-volume police department, fire department, Emergency Department, or any high-stress field, and, invariably you will find that those who do lots are often critical of those who do little. At least those who do lots with too much time on their hands and an internet at their disposal.

  13. As a friend of the victim (Nazish Noorani), and as an EMT, I am disgusted by her actions. If she wasn't going to help the victims, she could have done a number of things differently. Leaving a scene when things are unbearable is ridiculous, why did she join EMS?!

    I am 22 and I've been an EMT for about one year, I'm not experienced and I volunteer at a crappy squad that does not put emphasis on training. (They let the new EMT's become crew chiefs because the more experienced ones want to drive and do nothing)

    I recently took PHTLS and PEPP because I want to be prepared for a situation like this. I actually open my EMT book every couple of days and review stuff that I have forgotten.

    Not saying I am a great EMT, but I think the central theme to EMS is (or should be) that everyday is a day you could learn something new. A great EMT is someone who is humble and willing to learn.