Emergency room nurses at two Scottsdale hospitals are riding along with firefighters to help understand what patients and paramedics experience in the field.
Scottsdale Healthcare nurses who answer the "patch phone," a special line used by rescue workers coming in with a patient, must first spend two 12-hour shifts with firefighters responding to emergencies. Nurses who have already gone through the program must spend 12 hours retraining with paramedics each year.
About 20 nurses working for Scottsdale Healthcare, from both the Shea and Osborn hospital campuses, go through the training each year, said Mary White, prehospital coordinator for Scottsdale Healthcare.
Tara Finley, 28, completed her second shift riding with firefighter paramedics this week at Station 603, 7333 E. McDonald Drive. She already has four years of experience as an emergency room nurse, but until now has not answered calls on the patch phone because she was not a full-time employee.
Besides making her more valuable in the labor market, Finley said the ride-alongs give her special insight into the other end of emergencies.
"In the emergency room we’re used to seeing the patient brought to us all wrapped up in a neat little package," Finley said. "But in the field that’s not the case, and sometimes the circumstance in which you find a patient is a shock."
Finley said she observed the difficulty paramedics experience interviewing patients in the field and the emotional struggle when those who need to go to the hospital refuse.
At about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, firefighters of the 603 were called to the Paseo Village Shopping Center on McCormick Parkway and Hayden Road. A 68-year-old woman had driven her truck into a parked vehicle and wedged it between the vehicle and a tree.
The woman, who was bruised and had trouble standing, said her medication occasionally made her right leg go numb, but she refused to go to the hospital.
Finley said she learned why the handwriting on some reports isn’t the best from Scottsdale firefighter Tarynn Everetts, 27, who manages to fill in information despite the choppy ride to the hospital.
"I put in IVs the same way," Everetts said.
The nurses aren’t the only ones learning from the program, which is run primarily with the Scottsdale Fire Department.
Sometimes nurses and firefighters have conflicts when patients are stabilized in the field differently than they would be in a hospital setting, said Scottsdale firefighter Chris Burrows, 43.
"Each nurse is different, depending on which area they come from," Burrows said. "Basically we get insight into how they view the patients coming in and what they want."