Accident Scenes: Do You Always Offer Assistance?

  1. Had an interesting experience when I took my sister and BIL to Portland International this morning: as I was pulling into the terminal, we saw a woman lying on the ground with several people standing around, looking frantic. Of course, I'd rather NOT have to be a nurse on my days off, but there were no EMS around, and these people looked like they had no clue as to what to do, so I jumped out of the car and ran to the scene. The poor lady, who was of indeterminate late middle age, had just been pinned between two cars and had sustained probable crush injuries from the hip to the knees....it didn't appear that she'd lost much blood, but as I assessed her she started to shiver violently and I knew right away she was going into shock---her pulse was rapid and thready, and she was beginning to fade out. There was a bystander who volunteered his recently-acquired CPR skills if needed, so I knew we could keep her going if we had to, but at the same time I was hoping we wouldn't have to!

    So I yelled for someone to find me something to cover her with, and luckily another bystander had a couple of fleece blankets in his truck.....otherwise, there wasn't much I could do for her except hold her hand and keep her talking, and thank goodness someone had already called EMS, because they got to the scene about two minutes after I'd arrived and took over from there. Now I'm back home, hoping she's OK, because she was beginning to look pretty bad just before the paramedics got there..........and I'm wondering, does everybody here feel that being a nurse requires them to assist at accident scenes, or whenever they see someone in distress?

    I don't mean when there's an ambulance on the scene and the REAL experts are available---I figure the EMTs are a whole lot better equipped and better trained in emergency situations than I am---but when it's obvious someone is in trouble medically and you can't tell whether anyone at the scene is trained to deal with it? I wanted nothing more than to get my people to the terminal---we were running late anyway---park my car, and get some lunch before they had to board, but I just couldn't NOT stop to see what was going on and try to help.

    In these lawsuit-happy times (despite "Good Samaritan" laws that help protect first responders, nurses are still held to a higher standard than the average guy-on-the-street), I'm always nervous about treating strangers, even though I've rarely had occasion to do so. But again, I can't just walk away......and yes, I have to admit it made me feel pretty darn good to leave a scene knowing I've helped, if only a little.
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  2. 80 Comments

  3. by   totallytheresa
    Hi.. I'm still a student, so there wouldn't be much I could do but I absolutely would've done just exactly what you did! I feel like we have to, at least I feel like I have to. Plus you feel good about it, and you would've felt terrible if you had just driven by. I remember when I had just completed my CPR class, before 1st semester, and I was leaving my hotel job, when I saw an elderly man lying on the ground in his yard. OF course I stopped, and helped him out- he said he was ok after about 20 minutes but he was very confused, so I called the EMT's to be sure they checked him out. I felt great that I was there at that time, even though I didn;t have to do anything, thankfully! Since I didn't know much. That's part of the reason I am becoming a nurse- because I want to have that knowledge, to help!




    Quote from mjlrn97
    Had an interesting experience when I took my sister and BIL to Portland International this morning: as I was pulling into the terminal, we saw a woman lying on the ground with several people standing around, looking frantic. Of course, I'd rather NOT have to be a nurse on my days off, but there were no EMS around, and these people looked like they had no clue as to what to do, so I jumped out of the car and ran to the scene. The poor lady, who was of indeterminate late middle age, had just been pinned between two cars and had sustained probable crush injuries from the hip to the knees....it didn't appear that she'd lost much blood, but as I assessed her she started to shiver violently and I knew right away she was going into shock---her pulse was rapid and thready, and she was beginning to fade out. There was a bystander who volunteered his recently-acquired CPR skills if needed, so I knew we could keep her going if we had to, but at the same time I was hoping we wouldn't have to!

    So I yelled for someone to find me something to cover her with, and luckily another bystander had a couple of fleece blankets in his truck.....otherwise, there wasn't much I could do for her except hold her hand and keep her talking, and thank goodness someone had already called EMS, because they got to the scene about two minutes after I'd arrived and took over from there. Now I'm back home, hoping she's OK, because she was beginning to look pretty bad just before the paramedics got there..........and I'm wondering, does everybody here feel that being a nurse requires them to assist at accident scenes, or whenever they see someone in distress?

    I don't mean when there's an ambulance on the scene and the REAL experts are available---I figure the EMTs are a whole lot better equipped and better trained in emergency situations than I am---but when it's obvious someone is in trouble medically and you can't tell whether anyone at the scene is trained to deal with it? I wanted nothing more than to get my people to the terminal---we were running late anyway---park my car, and get some lunch before they had to board, but I just couldn't NOT stop to see what was going on and try to help.

    In these lawsuit-happy times (despite "Good Samaritan" laws that help protect first responders, nurses are still held to a higher standard than the average guy-on-the-street), I'm always nervous about treating strangers, even though I've rarely had occasion to do so. But again, I can't just walk away......and yes, I have to admit it made me feel pretty darn good to leave a scene knowing I've helped, if only a little.
  4. by   Tweety
    I've stopped at a couple of accidents. One was a bike verses car, and another a car vs. tree (hate when those trees jump out in front of you). Both accidents happened right in front of me. I just don't have it in my not to stop.

    Basically, I did what you did. Told everyone not to touch the victum, to call 911. Luckily no first aid or anything else had to be done. One of the guys wound up being a patient on my unit when I worked the trauma unit, had a busted knee.

    You did good.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    Aw, thanks, Tweety! :kiss BTW, I love your new signature line!
  6. by   RN4NICU
    Honestly, it would depend on circumstance. I tend to not carry personal protective equipment around with me. You never know who you are dealing with or what you are exposing yourself to. I would not expose myself to another person's blood (I get cracked skin on my hands from the hospital's soap - this is a means of entry for pathogens) or provide artificial respirations without a barrier (what if they vomit?) To risk contracting something is to risk no longer being able to care for my ACTUAL patients, plus to risk my own health which I try to be very protective of (I know how hospitals work - I DO NOT want to be a patient in one). So, no I do not believe that there is an unwritten guideline that nurses should stop and help. In fact, in my state, the law is even interpreted this way - there is no "duty to care" in these circumstances, so action cannot be taken against you if you do not assist.

    There might, however, be a potential for a civil suit if you do assist. It is my understanding that the "good samaritan law" is meant to protect well-meaning bystanders without medical knowledge. In our lawsuit happy society, coupled with a tendency of jury members to side with the "victim" against a medical professional, I have NO faith that I would be protected by that law in an actual lawsuit. The law does not have a history of standing up for nurses - but it does have a history of standing up against them.

    Its sad that these things even have to enter into consideration, but that is the world we live in.
  7. by   TemsMedic2
    i would find it difficult to live with myself if i passed up an accident scene with no "trained" help on location and woke up the next morning to read the persons obituary in the paper.. Everyone who responded to this post offered valid points as to why they would or would not stop to assist. I try and carry a cpr pocket mask and latex gloves in the glove compartment of my truck, so that i can protect myself, because like another person who replied, i refuse to expose myself to the point of jeopardizing my health. As for civil suits, your absolutely correct that we live in a tort society, every idiot looking for a dollar will go out of his way to jam you up if he thinks he has a chance to make a buck. But for me at least, i'll take that chance.
  8. by   Farkinott
    All you can really do in most cases is first aid. If you can stabilise the spine and maintain an airway, most times emergency services will be along fairly quickly. I usually stop but if the situation looks under control then I don't hag around like a bad smell.
  9. by   Spidey's mom
    Yes, I have responded and will most likely continue to respond. I did have a CPR mask in my car but it seems to have disappeared over the years.

    I agree with Marla . . . usually you just activate EMS and wait for those experts to arrive. I have done compressions though on a car accident victim.

    I went to a great conference that included the legal aspects of responding but it was 5 years ago and the details are foggy. :chuckle

    steph
  10. by   CHATSDALE
    as far as law suits are concerrned you can be sued if you have knowledge and fail to render aid...bottom line do what you feel is right cause you are not going win anyhow
  11. by   NeuroICURN
    I know this isn't exactly on topic, but I'm gonna throw it out there anyway!

    Here's an interesting tidbit of information that I learned last week......

    Did you know that they are now teaching people taking CPR not to do mouth to mouth??? They say they quit teaching it to alleviate the confusion over number of breaths vs. number of chest compressions. I couldn't believe that when I heard it!!! I wouldn't want to give a complete stranger mouth to mouth, but I wouldn't hesitate for someone like my sister!

    As for offering assistance...I have at times, but I'm reluctant too! I'm not only at risk because of being an RN, but also because I'm a certified first responder (from my police officer days). It all just depends on the situation and whether I'm prepared or not (gloves, etc.).
  12. by   laughingfairy
    I don't stop as often as I used to.
    I believe that I would be more of a hinderance and danger than a help when I am carting 2 or 3 kids around. I do usually stop and question if any one has called 911 and yes I do keep a home made first aid kit that includes gloves and a mouth to mouth barrier in my car.

    I started with the gloves due to play ground accidents. You wouldn't believe how many Moms flip out at the sight of their childs own blood and/or don't carry first aid equipment. I wear gloves for scrapped knees when I don't know the child and family personally I'm not taking the risk
  13. by   BayMae10
    I just wanted to add that i heard the same thing...NO MORE MOUTH TO MOUTH!!! they say that just doing the compressions will circulate enough blood to help! kinda cool if you ask me it does end up makin it easier for peole to not get confused
  14. by   VivaLasViejas
    I'm with you guys on rescue breathing......I'd rather keep the circulation going than worry about breaths-to-compressions ratios in the heat of the moment. That, and I don't care to risk exposure to God-knows-what.......I haven't been in many code situations in the field, but I've never seen anyone NOT vomit during a resuscitation attempt. I used to have a couple of pocket masks in the glove box, along with a couple pairs of gloves and a stethoscope, but haven't carried this equipment routinely for several years now. I figure a cell phone to dial 911, the ability to stay calm, and my knowledge of CPR and first aid are sufficient for most, if not all, emergent situations I'll encounter in my lifetime. Including today's.

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