If you want to make your life easier, don’t start your shift without these items in your pockets!
When I was a mountaineering and survival instructor in the U.S. Marine Corps, there were seven pocket items that all of my students were required to carry at all times in the field. These items greatly increased their survival abilities and effectiveness under harsh conditions. The list below will make any EMS practitioner more effective and prepared during the conduct of their daily duties.
- Pen This probably goes without saying, but a pen is probably your most important piece of gear. With technology on the rise, it can be easy to forget this archaic but still useful item. I recommend carrying at least 3 at all times.
- Notepad Another antiquated item, yet just as priceless as a pen. If you don’t have something to jot down quick notes, you will be forced to try remembering them. Try that at 3AM without coffee.
- Sharpie Marker There are many times when writing something in pen just won’t get the job done. A sharpie marker (or any brand of permenant marker) always seems to come in handy when I’m on shift for a variety of applications. As an added bonus, these markers come in just about any color you could want, so you can personalize your writing.
- Trauma Shears I recommend a set that is brightly colored, so you don’t lose them quite so easily. It’s also a good idea to swap these out when they become worn, as there are few things as frustrating as a dull set of shears.
- Pocket Knife No, this is not for cutting seatbelts (or using near a patient at all, for that matter). It is also not for action movie-style knife fights either. A knife is an invaluable tool with thousands of uses. Just make sure that the one you carry is sharp, and has quality construction. Avoid the cheap gas station specials, or those flashy “EMS/Rescue” knives, and invest in a decent knife. You can usually find a quality one for less than $30.
- Penlight If you havent noticed, the cheap, disposable penlights don’t work well for EMS work. Unless you are working in a clinic where you have the ability to dim the lights, you are wasting your time trying to evaluate pupilary responses with one of these. Get a penlight that is BRIGHT. There are several companies that make LED versions for under $3.
- Flashlight Just like the penlight, LED technology is making these cheaper, and more compact. There are thousands of small, very bright flashlights available that use virtually no power to operate. The one I carry cost $5, is smaller than my cell phone, and uses just one AA battery per year. The one on your rig is great, but doesn’t help you when it isn’t on you. Don’t get caught in the dark!
- Hand Sanitizer There are plenty of times when you remove your gloves and don’t have the luxury of washing your hands, that’s why I always carry a small bottle of sanitizer on me. Sanitizer is available in all sorts of fantastic scents, but keep in mind: If it smells good to you, it smells good to mosquitos who will suck the life out of you in minutes flat.
- Reference Material There are plenty of great EMS reference guides out there, but they are often bulky and contain a lot of unnecessary information. Figure out what info you need or may need and create your own reference materials, better yet, include what you need in your notepad to save some space. Dopamine drip charts, important phone numbers, and vent settings can prove invaluable when time is a factor. You can get a copy of my personal reference material here.
So that is my list of essentials for every Paramedic’s Pocket. If you think I missed something, please leave a comment below. Also, please take a moment to follow my blog via e-mail so you don’t miss an episode. You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for reading, and remember to be safe out there!