When a Co-Worker is Intoxicated

Have you ever suspected that a co-worker is intoxicated? Has a co-worker boasted to you that they left the bar just a few hours before their shift started? The consequences of an intoxicated employee can be deadly to the person, your patients, and to you.

This is what I have done when I suspect a co-worker is intoxicated or under the influence and we are not providing patient care.

1. Immediately contact my supervisor by phone or face-to-face report. Without delay since we might be paged to a call at any moment.

2. After contacting my supervisor for our unit to be out-of-service until I ask the supervisor for advice on what, if anything, I should say to my co-worker.

3. Fill out documentation provided by supervisor/HR department about the incident. Remember to document behaviors you observed and statements your co-worker made.

Fortunately,  I have not been in a situation where we were traveling to a call, caring for a patient, or transporting a patient with an intoxicated co-worker. Have you? I would like to think that would be a very rare situation that I will never encounter. If I was in this situation this is what I would do.

1. Immediately relieve the co-worker of any patient assessment or care duties. If out of the vehicle, I would ask the co-worker to return to vehicle to wait for me.

2. Request assistance from other emergency responders on-scene to continue to assist with patient care.

3. Contact a field supervisor and/or my agency dispatch center as soon as practically possible.

4. Consider my options for transporting the patient. At this point we would not have a complete crew. I would request advice from the supervisor for guidance on initiating transport with a police or firefighter driver and a single paramedic on board or waiting for another transport unit.

What would you do? Talking and thinking through what-if situations like this will help prepare you for incidents that we hope are unrealistic, but tragically do happen.

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.