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Monkey See Monkey Do

July 9, 2011


As we sail along in this ship we call life we sometimes fail to realize the impact we have on others – in what we say and in what we do. One aspect of how that plays out can be summed up with an old 18th century saying that originated in Jamaica – “Monkey see, monkey do.”

Doing something you saw somebody else do when you work in emergency service – without applying much reasoning – can have serious consequences. I was reminded of that just the other day. Here’s what happened.

Emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene of a shooting. Like any situation of this sort the initial information received was sketchy at best. It was thought that “the shooter had left the scene.”

One of the medics responded directly to the scene and didn’t bother staging because they believed “the shooter had left the scene.” The first law enforcement officer headed to the supposed pathway of the departing shooter – instead of the scene location– because he believed “the shooter had left the scene.”

The reality was that the shooter had not left the scene. Fortunately, the shooter was subdued without further incident.

Standard procedure for medical personnel responding to a possible crime scene is to stage away from the scene until law enforcement gives the “all clear.” As an administrator I had to ask myself, “Why did our procedure fail?” It didn’t take much thought to realize the finger of blame was pointing right back at “me”. Let me explain.

Over the past two years I’ve responded to several emergency incidents that had a criminal component. On those calls I too chose not to stage. Fortunately, both of the scenes turned out to be secure. I thought my decisions and my actions took place in a microcosm – my call with nobody else impacted. Wrong.

I failed to think about the consequences of my decisions and my actions – not on me, but on others. I thought that another old saying “Do as I say and not as I do” was enough to set things right. It wasn’t.

In retrospect any significant variation of a policy should be reviewed. And, the lessons learned from that review should be shared with all the medical responders.

Take heed of the impact you have on others during your life’s journey. And, make sure what the monkeys see is what you want the monkeys to do.

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