Paramedics often obstructed, left out of the loop on nursing home calls

Paramedics often receive little direction from nurses or medical records when handling end-of-life situations at nursing homes, a new survey finds.

Results published in the Emergency Medical Journal conclude that the lack of direction was heavily associated with a lack of clarity in residents' wishes. Paramedics said records providing residents' end-of-life preferences are uncommon and are typically limited to resuscitation. Without proper records, paramedics are forced to make decisions based on perceived preferences when a patient is incapable of making a decision.  

Differing opinions on how to handle end-of-life situations also were said to have contributed to paramedics' uncertainty.

Researchers said several paramedics spoke of situations where nursing staffs attempted to influence them on whether to hospitalize residents. One paramedic mentioned that once he arranged for a patient to be treated at a nursing home and the “staff were unhappy because it meant they had to provide one-to-one care and actually look after someone dying.”

Another paramedic told researchers of a situation where a relative's opposition contributed to a patient being submitted to the hospital against her wishes.

The difference in opinion has lead to several deaths, including a 2015 incident in Minnesota, where an unconscious nursing home resident died after her husband told paramedics not to take her to the hospital.

It's important for all nursing homes to clarify residents' preferences regarding resuscitation and intubation,” The Hastings Center research scholar Nancy Berlinger told Reuters. “Even more important: a facilitated discussion of values and goals that can be transcribed into instructions for every employee.”

“It is owed to the patient, the family and to that aide at three o'clock in the morning. It is owed to the paramedic,” Berlinger added.

The survey was conducted by Georgina Murphy-Jones of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust and Professor Stephen Timmons of the University of Nottingham.