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Not Lost in Translation

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

“Patients are patients. No matter where you go, don’t forget that.” Those were my Lieutenant’s words just before I left the states.

Ambulance in North India

Campbell uses ambulances like these to transport ill or injured North India citizens.

Now, her words rang in my ears as I stepped into the ER at a mission hospital in the majestic Himalayas of north India. The early days here were challenging.  All of the patient interviewing skills that had been drilled into my head in Paramedic school were thrown out the door because I couldn’t speak the language. I had to rely on my physical exam techniques: Inspection, Palpation, Auscultation… All of you can probably recite the mantras you memorized during your training.

But you know what? She was right. Yes, communication barriers can be a huge hindrance in treating patients, but if you stick to the fundamentals you will be OK and what’s more, your patients will fare better too.

How well you grasp the fundamentals is what defines you as a caregiver, so that is what we teach. Fortunately, Brady materials make that possible. When I first started in India, I was spending countless hours making slides, quizzes, tests, and handouts from scratch. Now, we use the Instructor Resources for Brady’s Paramedic Care: Principles and Practice. For some classes, I have a translator at my side. However, English is an official language in India and therefore a principle medium for medical education.

EMS in India is a relatively new but emerging field. Many states provide primary response emergency transport free of charge. In other places, private hospitals and companies are providing critical care transports for exorbitant rates that are unaffordable to the average citizen. At the mission hospital we are focusing solely on providing critical care transport at an affordable cost while the state government has contracted with a private company to provide free BLS level primary response.

The laws governing EMS in India are under development and we—as the only provider of critical care services in our region—have a unique opportunity to play a central role in setting a high standard for training and service in the swiftly developing field of EMS. Essentially, I have the chance to be a pioneer of life-saving techniques with the help of Brady’s comprehensive resources.

Greg Campbell volunteers at Lady Willingdon Hospital in Manali, India as a Consultant in Ambulance and Emergency Medical Technician Training: http://infovore.in/manalihos/ By U.S. standards, Campbell offers Level III Trauma Center services.  Prior to his involvement in India, patients had to wait as long as nine hours for a critical care level ambulance to arrive from Level I hospitals in the bordering state. Campbell’s responsibilities include working to develop an EMT-Paramedic program that will be accredited by an Indian agency and funded by foreign donors as well as student fees.

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