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Five Myths About You and Your Ambulance Ride.

Updated on December 28, 2015


There are many myths about EMS in general. I strive to dispel some of those myths I constantly deal with in my field. I'm an EMT at an extremely busy service, where currently we are over 110,000 calls for the year. Working for such a busy service has afforded me a lot of experience with different cultures, races, and economical backgrounds. Even with such diversity I found that across the board the myths were the common donimnator. I essentially wrote this article just to educate and inform people about what may occur if they ever have to take a ride in an ambulance. The list below is a reflection of some of the most common myths I've encountered throughout my career.

If I refuse to be transported, I will not be billed.

People tend to think that refusing a transport by ambulance will not result in a bill. This is the one of the biggest misconceptions I come across in my field. Of course the bill may be significantly lower compared to a bill in which you were transported. However, you or your insurance company is still billed for simply being "checked out." People with no insurance are responsible for paying that bill. If you have good insurance your "pay out of pocket" cost may be minimum or nothing at all.


If I go to the hospital via ambulance, I will be seen quicker.

Wrong, Wrong, and Wrong. You can go by ambulance to the hospital and sit in the waiting room for three hours. Patients brought by ambulance have no priority over any other patients. How quick you are seen by a doctor is largely dependent on several factors: room availability, your medical complaint compared to others, time of day, personal medical history, and whether your illness or injury poses a life threat. I'll take someone to the hospital and they'll have a fit because they are being sent to the waiting room. I've seen people all of a sudden complain of more serious symptoms in order to be seen quicker. That's why I try to be frank with patients especially if I know their complaint isn't life threatening and the hospital they are requesting to go to is pretty busy.

Lights and sirens is used when transporting to the hospital.

Many ambulance services require that crews respond emergent to all calls regardless of the nature of the call. Emergent means light and sirens and essentially getting to the location of the call in a timely fashion. However, the choice to head to the hospital emergent is also dependent on several factors. Is the patient unstable? Is there an immediate life threat? Would the patient benefit from getting to the hospital faster? All these things are deciding factors. In a typical week, I probably go emergent to the hospital at least once. Sometimes I may not even go emergent at all that week. Honestly, using lights and sirens presents a greater safety risk to the crews and the public. More accidents happen while crews are utilizing lights and sirens than if they were not.

You are required to go to the closest hospital.

People tend to think they are required to go to the closest hospital. Not true. The severity of your illness or injuries and where you would personally like to go determines the destination hospital. You have the right to pick what hospital you want to go to, as long as you are alert and oriented. If your vitals are what we describe as "stable" then passing two hospitals to go to your preferred hospital is fine. However if your vitals are "unstable" or your condition/injuries are severe, the closest hospital is going to be the best option. An alert and oriented person is not required to go anywhere let alone to the closet hospital. However if altered in anyway or a minor, the decision is not yours to make.


If I don't have insurance, the hospital will not treat me.

There is a large amount of the population who are uninsured and therefore fail to obtain the medical care they need. Typically they allow serious ailments or symptoms to linger on because they don't want to seek medical attention because of the costs. No hospital can turn a person away because they lack healthcare insurance. I believe many people know this yet they still choose not to seek medical attention. I respond to many calls in which my partner and I spend a lot of time convincing an uninsured patient they need to go to the hospital. Sometimes its life or death and you have to be brutally honest with patients. The uninsured problem in the country is bigger than just this and will take years to really combat. All we can do in our field is educate and encourage people to take care of themselves even if it may cost them.


In all, these myths are some of the most common misconceptions I've seen in my field. In order to truly debunk them it takes educating the people who believe they are true. No one wants to experience a ride in an ambulance especially if its a true emergency. However if you do, I hope you find great insight and knowledge in this article.


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