When are frequent flyers too frequent?
We all have them right? The frequent flyer.
Maybe it's the drunk, the diabetic who just doesn't take their meds, even the
little old lady who wants some type of company at 3am or their BP checked.
But when does it become too frequent? A hard question to ask I think.
I mean, the easy answer is anyone who calls 911 that often to be considered a
frequent flyer is too frequent.
For me that is true as well, but when it really hits home is when another patient
really needs my services and can't get them because I am dealing with the FF.
The other day I had one (yes I have several where I am). The drunk who calls at odd
times but always the same issues, abdominal pain, chest pain, etc. etc.
While I was transporting him a call went out in my area for a motorcyclist vs. a car.
Turns out the patient there was a 18 year old with a femur fracture and tib/fib fracture
helicopter enroute and guess what? No ambulance. Both local ambulances where already
So this young man waited on the ground twenty minutes before a mutual aid agency could
come and only then did he start to get care to help him and get him to the landing zone.
All the while I am listening to the first responder fire fighters and police asking over and over
where the ambulance was, detailing how injured the patient was. As I sat there in the back of the
ambulance staring at my drunk patient, with no emergent need who stared back at me smiling
without a care in the world. Getting a ride to his requested ED that he feels he has not quite
used up his welcome just yet.
I have always been a believer that as professionals we can only do one call at a time and that we should
do it to the best of our abilities no matter the call, minor, major or otherwise.
But there are times like this when I feel that just maybe there is another answer to frequent flyers. One that
doesn't mean we refuse them or ignore their issues that often are way beyond our EMS training and resources.
Perhaps that in itself is the answer to start. To provide EMS that training to deal with them, give us the resources to share and provide these callers. With less than 6% of 911 calls being actual emergencies, shouldn't a focus on that aspect of our job become a larger part of our training?
I don't have answers to this one. I guess this is just a rant more than anything else. I do hope though, that while
you may have your own threshold of when it is too frequent, you stay professional and share your frustrations with your peers.
Maybe by doing so a plan might just formulate on how to handle this pressing issue in EMS.
I have seen programs in place trying to deal with this issue. Is your agency part of one of these programs? How is it working?