There's a Fine Line Between Secondary Assessments and Sexual Assault

 Every so often, I hear of or read a story that makes me wonder if it is true or not. The most recent of these was an article in the Cleveland, OH, newspaper,The Plain Dealer. The headline read, "Veteran Cleveland paramedic set for trial on sex charges...


  Every so often, I hear of or read a story that makes me wonder if it is true or not. The most recent of these was an article in the Cleveland, OH, newspaper, The Plain Dealer . The headline read, "Veteran Cleveland paramedic set for trial on sex charges." The article spoke of the indictment of...


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A paramedic who is alone in the rear compartment of an ambulance with a patient can turn from hero to villain real quick, based on the comments of a patient turned accuser. There is a fine line between secondary assessments and being accused of sexual assault. In some cases, it may be necessary to do a head-to-toe survey, especially in unconscious patients. When doing the head-to-toe survey, a patient may not understand why they are being touched in certain areas. It is imperative to communicate to the patient, if conscious, what you are doing. Also, it is usually unnecessary to do any type of genital exam unless there is an injury, an imminent birth or a possible miscarriage.

I would hate to see us get to the point where we need witnesses to each secondary survey or a camera mounted in the back of the ambulance, but many services are using dash cameras to protect themselves during vehicle accidents. Continue to do your job, but be wary of those who file false reports — and if you are a predator in this profession, do us a favor, resign and get professional help.

GARY LUDWIG, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He has 30 years of fire-rescue service experience. Ludwig is chairman of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has a master's degree in business and management, and is a licensed paramedic. He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally, and can be reached through his website at www.garyludwig.com.