EMT Exam: How to Work with a Team during an Emergency

By Arthur Hsieh

Working completely alone as an EMT is extremely rare. Even in those circumstances, you’ll likely be interacting with other healthcare and public safety providers at some point during a call. More likely, you’ll be functioning as a member of a team. It may be a single partner, a fire engine crew, or even an emergency department staff — regardless of the size, everyone has a role to play.

Every team has a leader and one or more followers. Both roles are vital to the success of the team.

  • When you’re the leader: As team leader, you are responsible for the overall health and safety of the team. In small teams, you may need to perform some of the scene functions, such as performing the patient assessment or collecting information from bystanders.

    In larger teams, you may have more team members who can perform most of the scene functions, which allows you to monitor the overall progression of the incident. The role of team leader is decided by the crew prior to arriving at the scene, to avoid any possible confusion in front of the patient or bystanders.

    This doesn’t mean that you should make every decision on the scene. Part of being a successful team leader is to solicit input from other team members. For example, say you’re developing a treatment plan for the patient.

    You may consider turning to your partner and saying something like, “I think we need to immobilize the patient to a backboard and provide some oxygen, maybe 4 liters per minute, with a nasal cannula. What do you think?” This way, you may gain some additional input or other information that you may have missed during your exam.

  • When you’re the follower: Team leaders can’t lead if there’s no one to follow them. Followers, or team members, need to perform their functions well and in a coordinated fashion. A lot of tasks need to be performed during an emergency incident — patient assessment, treatment, extrication, moving equipment, talking with bystanders, just to name a few.

    To accomplish these tasks with the least amount of effort and time takes practice and a commitment to excellence. As you gain experience, you’ll end up not only listening carefully for direction from your team leader, but also anticipating what task will need to be done next.