Meeting the needs of special needs patients

KEESEVILLE - When heading to a call, emergency responders don't always know what to expect. That's why Kent Faus works with a core team of volunteers to provide training for their fellow emergency medical service providers.

Since 2009, Morrisonville Ambulance Service has sponsored a "Patients with Special Needs Conference" to provide specialized training for emergency personnel, and this year was no exception. Faus, who serves as EMS captain for the Morrisonville rescue squad, said the goal is to provide better insight into the vast health issues and psychological conditions of patients with special needs.

"The purpose is to learn more about people we don't deal with on a continuous basis," said Faus.

The challenge of delivering emergency medical care can be enough on its own, but working with a severely autistic patient or one with special medical needs can be difficult if responders don't know in advance how to deliver appropriate care or be prepared for severe behavior issues.

"There are certain clientele that we deal with that we don't know a lot about; we don't have a lot of training on," said Faus, adding mainstream EMS training only gives a "snapshot" of handling patients with Alzheimer's disease, cystic fibrosis and post-traumatic disorder, among other conditions covered by the conference. "That's why we've tried to go from one end of the spectrum to the next and back again."

Though the Morrisonville department, like many others, mainly deals with calls relating to cardiac and diabetes-related issues, said Faus, it's important to know more about the increasing variety of special needs cases.

"We get a call maybe once every four or five months for a patient who's autistic or who has maybe a feeding tube problem," said Faus. "If we can learn something here, then maybe they don't need to go to the hospital; maybe it's something we can fix with the crew we have on the ambulance. This can only improve the quality of care we give."

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