NAEMD Medical Protocols Help 911 Dispatchers Save Lives

In the early days of emergency medical dispatching, 911 dispatchers did not have access to standardized medical protocols and had to make snap decisions to provide medical advice on the spot. This subjective process led to errors and major legal disasters when the advice was not correct.

Now, many dispatch centers belong to the National Academy Emergency Medical Dispatch (NAEMD) and provide their 911 dispatchers with thorough training on providing the appropriate medical advice.

This training enables 911 dispatchers to determine the appropriate response to send to an emergency. These dispatchers are able to properly quiz the caller to ascertain the status of the patient and information about the scene to determine the appropriate dispatch determinant code.

An additional benefit of being trained in these medical protocols is that 911 dispatchers can better assist the caller on helping the patient before help arrive. Following these protocols has also helped to decrease the number of emergency medical vehicle accidents and decreased their maintenance costs.

Dr. Jeff Clawson originally developed the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) which is now controlled by the NAEMD. These protocols were first used by the Salt Lake City Fire Department in 1978. 911 dispatchers first received formal training in the state of Utah in 1979 and were the first dispatchers to be formally called “emergency medical dispatchers.”

Utah became the first state to formally require that dispatchers use medically approved protocols in 1983, and soon afterwards, the US Department of Transportation issued a curriculum and a sample protocol for EMD training.

The NAEMD provides emergency medical dispatch training over three days in the following areas:

  • The science of prioritizing dispatch
  • Ethical and medical/legal issues
  • The “zero minute” response time
  • Principles of using the MPDS protocols
  • Learning by doing and reviewing
    • Attendees practice using the protocol in small groups with an instructor providing one-on-one review
  • Conclusion—preparing for certification

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