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Are Field Guides Just For Lazy Providers?

This is a guest post by Jim Hoffman. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Yesterday I posted a video about using a field protocol manual and a pocket sized field guide. Jim Hoffman, the EMS professional, contributed this article, about why it is important to have a field guide and access it as you need it.

As an EMS provider for over 18 years I have always carried some type of pocket field resource with me. While I have not relied upon these resources in my day to duties, they have come in quite handy for things like;

  • Looking up a patients prescribed medication to see what they are taking it for.
  • Utilizing a calendar or date reference
  • Refreshing memory for a specific call type that was not commonly seen
  • Even as a quick resource to compare an ECG finding.

The argument is, are those providers who use field guides lazy? Or are they simply using it as one of the many tools available to them? I believe the answer is both.

Read the rest of Jim’s article about using a field guide:

A provider can be seen as lazy when they use a field guide for each call and are constantly referring to it for dosages and treatment modalities. You are expected to know how to treat patients and have a strong grasp of medications, their dosages and uses.

As an EMS professional you should know treatment modalities for the patients you encounter and having to look up this information is a poor reflection on you and the industry. Just imagine if your doctor looked up something every time you where in his/her office. How much confidence and trust would you have in them? Most likely not much.


I doubt patients and families would have much trust in us if we were looking up their illness or a medication to give them. Especially during a time of an emergency and when you are coming at them with needles.

So, where is the line between lazy and valuable resource? Some EMS systems don’t run all that many calls each year. This doesn’t make them poor providers or inexperienced. It does however tend to make knowledge gained in school, CEU and self study harder to retain. The more you do something the more you remember how to do it. I worked in one area that I did so many CHF calls that I can do them in my sleep.

So providers who are not exposed to all the various call types at the saturation level that say an urban provider would be, may need a resource like a pocket field guide to help them perform better in the field. The key I think is to use a pocket field guide or similar resource like a PDA as a supplement to being a knowledgeable EMS provider. Using it on the way to a call to refresh your memory on that pediatric dosage or obstetric call. Referring to it before giving a medication you have not given in awhile or using it as a way to achieve better documentation. These are all things that can help even the most experienced and the most urban provider give the best prehospital care they can, without error and without second guessing themselves.

If you are a knowledgeable provider and present yourself as a true EMS professional, referring to a pocket resource to quickly refresh your memory once in awhile won’t seem that out of place to a patient on your stretcher. On the other hand, if you are presenting yourself as an unsure provider who is quick to break out the handbook. The patient will sense it and their trust in you will be non-existent. Their memory of EMS will also be affected as well.

There are many resources we have at our disposal to make patient care more efficient and improve our safety. The pocket field guide is a valuable resource to have in your arsenal of patient care tools. A good education, continued training and self awareness of your career is the best way to master the knowledge and skills needed to be a confident EMS professional.


Jim Hoffman has been involved with EMS for over 18 years. Mostly with NYC 911 and has worked in various EMS systems both rural and urban. Currently Jim focuses his energy on creating unique and new ways to help EMS providers succeed in their careers and education. To find out more about Jim visit his website.

By Dave Konig

Dave is an EMS provider based in New York City for over 20 years and has been blogging for over 10 years. He is experienced in all facets of EMS Service Management, Emergency Management, and specializes in Event Medical Services. He maintains a blog at DavidKonig.com, is an EMS1.com Columnist, and will be authoring on all things social (including Social Media) here at The Social Medic.