Saturday, January 28, 2012

You Can't Know That

The most common situation in which most people hear "You can't know that" is during an argument, when one person believes the other is not supporting their argument with facts.

More frustrating is the situation where "you can't" doesn't mean "you are not capable," but means "you are not allowed."

I don't like to be told I "can't" anything. I don't think anyone does.

As an EMT, I run into "you can't" on a daily basis.
Most frequently, it has to do with patient privacy.

What it is supposed to do is protect people from having their personal medical information shared with people who have no business knowing it. I have no problem with that.

But what it DOES is interfere with an EMTs education because legally, we often can't find out what happened to our patients. The hospital can't tell us. Once the patient leaves our care, we no longer have the right to know.

This means we can't find out if we were correct in our assessment of what was going on.
It means we can't verify our successes, or learn from our mistakes.

If there is something that makes me more angry than being told I legally am not allowed to learn something, especially something I need to know to provide better patient care, I don't know what it is.

Plus, it makes no sense.
What makes sense is for every EMT to learn from every patient. What makes sense is for everyone involved in the medical care of a patient to be included in understanding what was happening and why, and what made it better or worse.

But no.
No can do.

This means I've had to figure out other ways to learn. Other ways to verify what was happening.
It's an interesting challenge.

I come home from calls and look things up a LOT. I have the whole internet, and I also have a variety of reference books. I know some much more experienced providers who are able to answer questions for me, not about a specific patient by name (legally can't do that!) but about what symptoms mean, or what different conditions look like in the field, or how to tell the difference between similar conditions, etc.

I spend time every day increasing my store of knowledge. Sometimes, it's the little things that make a difference, so I look for those little things. I read books, I read blogs, I talk to people. I go to conferences, workshops, "teaching days" and training classes. I look for every opportunity I can find to learn more about the things I know the least about.

Even so, it sure would be a lot more efficient, and more effective, to be able to learn from the situations where I have the most hands-on experience. To be able to follow a patient's case as it develops.

The only time we get to do that is when, by chance, we know or meet a family member who volunteers the information. They are not bound by the HIPAA laws, and can tell us whatever they want. It is VERY helpful when they do.

The whole thing makes me very sensitive to things people are "not allowed to know." To the idea of someone, or some organization, owning information or knowledge.

Mostly, "you can't know that" makes me determined to find it out.

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