If you have been in prehospital medicine for any length of time, you are well aware of the many personalities the industry attracts. For ground EMS, your partner’s personality has little effect on you personally, other than making your day enjoyable or not.  However, in HEMS, your partner’s ability, engagement, focus, and trust can be the difference between life or death.

Most would agree, in HEMS recruiting, the pool of experience healthcare providers are siphoned through multiple times, and those who remain are, “Type A,” experienced, engaged, enthusiastic, smart, critical thinking clinicians.  Many fought their way, in some cases, through hundreds of other applicants to get the job of their life; and in some cases to the pinnacle of their career.

So what happened to those smart, engaged, enthusiastic clinicians? Why is “human error” the leading cause of accidents, incidents, and near-misses? Is there a disconnect between the pilots and the medical team? Does your program practice, “Three to “GO”, One to say no “NO” philosophy? Are marginal weather decisions a team decision? Is there any pressure to fly from management?

If you are currently a flight crew member, I encourage you to look in the mirror, be honest with yourself, and answer the following questions?

  • Are you still keenly engaged, or are you distracted during your shift?
  • Are you just “content” at what you are doing?
  • Does getting a flight request, still increase your heart rate?
  • What are you doing on a weekly/monthly basis to stay abreast of latest literature?
  • Are you familiar with FOAMED?
  • Is your program conducting briefs at the beginning of every shift? Are you engaged during brief? 
  • When you are flying, are your eye’s out? Or, are you staring at your phone?
  • Are you coming to work, well rested and prepared for an immediate response? How about a 2-year-old drowning? Or, for an overturned bus on the interstate; reported being school age children,?

If you answered “NO” to one or more of the above questions, you might be suffering from complacency. Complacency is defined as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.”

Complacency has NO place in HEMS. It is not ok to tell yourself, “it’s OK” when you see and hear “RED FLAGS.”  It’s not “OK” to stay in situations when you knowingly make concessions, excuses, or cut corners. It’s the difference between completing a successful mission or not.

If after reading this, you have any doubt about your engagement or commitment to your program, you have several choices;

  1. First and foremost, be honest with yourself
  2. Take a safety time-out/vacation
  3. Be honest with your management team and discuss options
  4. Speak to a professional to better understand how you are feeling

Just because an accident hasn’t happened, does not mean an accident is not imminent. Complacency can defeat any person or organization, no matter how talented. Unfortunately, we have all read about multiple incidents and accidents from organizations with outstanding safety records; it means nothing. Normalization of Deviance is about “cutting corners”, and that becomes the “norm”.

Click to View: A Must View: Stopping Normalization of Deviance

Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose,” That’s why helicopter programs safety record can be a breeding ground for complacency. Crews become content, satisfied and comfortable  — too comfortable — in the way you do things.  In short, everything appears to be going well, and you don’t think there is a need to change. Do you believe your level of engagement, like “walkarounds” are as thorough as they were when you began your career? I believe everyone battles complacency at some point in their career. The real trick is not to let it hang around for long. It’s the difference between life and death.

Please post your comments, and/or if you like the article, please click “Like”.  

  1. Complacency | Define Complacency at Dictionary.com.(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/complacency
  2. Harvey Mackay: Success can breed complacency – Times Union. Jun. 2016 http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-business/article/Harvey-Mackay-Success-can-bree.

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