April 1: Kitchen Tools and Gadgets for Patient Assessment and Care

Note: April 1, 2010 Post. Enjoy.

Every EMS professional has acquired some tools and tricks during their career. You know the kind of things they don’t teach you in EMT school and you can only learn on the streets. Just by nature of my personality I get fairly frequent raised eyebrows and quizzical looks from partners and patients. But the thing that gets the most questions and curiosity is the rolling pin. It fits perfectly in the space between the bench seat cushion and wall. In addition to the obvious use, as an attitude adjuster, the rolling pin is great for rolling out the anguish from lower lumbar pain or splinting a radius ulna or tibia fibula fracture. I also like to use the rolling pin for smoothing out an occlusive abdominal dressing or to re-roll a four-inch roller gauze.

Now before you start to snicker I know plenty of EMS professionals that carry other kitchen gadgets in the ambulance. Steve Whitehead from told me recently, “Brau I have been carrying a turkey baster for years. Sure I might able to use it for suctioning, but the best use is for testing for skin turgor.”

When I was in San Francisco for the premier of the Chronicles of EMS Ted Setla showed me some of the content he cut from Episode 1. In one excellent clip “Mark and Justin argue about the merits of a slotted spoon versus a non-slotted spoon. With great seriousness Justin explains, “We have a lot of overdose patients and a slotted spoon lets the vomit slip through, but not the pills. Then I can count the pills.” He continues, “In our system the patient’s health insurance also determines if I can use a Good Grips spoon or a generic spoon.”

Mark countered with, “In the UK we don’t have a choice in spoons. Instead they need to have bright green handles.”

Before we started recording on a recent episode of the EMSEduCast, Kelly Grayson the Ambulance Driver, started telling us “I need three things in the ambulance. A pen, a watch with a second-hand, and a pair of oven mitts.” He went on to say, “when the fire is really burning in some dude or we get some crawfish to boil between calls I just reach into my cargo pockets for my trusty oven mitts with the trigger finger action grip.”

Last time I checked Chris Kaiser, Jamie Davis, and Chris Montera were all users of the basic pancake spatula. “I can go straight from the kitchen to scraping up the pieces of a trauma patient with a spatula,” boomed the Pod Medic. “For me the spatula is best for those bed-ridden patients that have not been adequately repositioned in their bed. I can gently pry their backside onto the slider board,” piped up Chris Kaiser.

You might have missed it but in the last episode of the Firefighter Net Cast Rhett and John got into an in-depth discussion about which is more helpful on the job – a regular muffin tin or a mini muffin tin pan. Rhett was heard to say, “John you are so old school with just a six muffin pan. The only way I roll is twelve mini muffins. Banana nut – if you need to know.”

Finally, and speaking of old school, the Rogue Medic carries an old-fashioned egg beater in his jump kit. “Frankly the research about the efficacy of handheld electric mixers is inconclusive and the research methods, especially in the randomized trial of donut batter mixing, are full of holes.”

I was not able to reach several other of my good friends and EMS professionals about their favorite kitchen gadgets for patient assessment and care. So I am hopeful Kyle Bates, David Konig, and Jim Hoffman will share their thoughts in  the comments area. You are welcome to do the same.

If you enjoyed this post make sure you check out Stethoscope Calibration from April 1, 2009.

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.