A number of states and local jurisdictions have restricted the use of hand-held devices, while driving. And, while exceptions for operators of emergency vehicles may be incorporated, Ambulance crews are still being recruited from the human race and can still be distracted while driving.
When the public sees EMS personnel using cell phones, there may be many questions about why one of the “ambulance drivers” is talking on their cell phones while they are in the ambulance. There indeed should be a policy about cell phone use on the ambulance (Streger, 2007), but there should also be some accommodations made if needed. Cell phones can be used as a backup when the radio system provided by the EMS company develops a “gremlin” of some kind and stops working. Even the cameras on the cell phone can be used to help support documentation on wreck scene (Streger, 2007).
Making sure that patient confidentiality is not a problem will, of course, be a major part of any policy that is created. If and when a cell phone is used, there must be extreme caution, especially if the person using the cell phone is the driver. If someone is texting while they are driving, there was found to be the equivalency of a blood alcohol level of 0.07 and 0.10 g/dL (Colleran et al, 2016), which we all know is in the range of being an intoxicated driver. Workplace safety is of utmost importance, and that is why cell phone on the ambulance use must be justified if used.
Colleran, Caroline, DO, PHP, FAAEM, FACEP; Jensen, Trent DO; Carlson, Jestin N., MD, MS (2016, Jul 1). Safety Practices Must be Enforced for EMS Providers. Retrieved from: http://www.jems.com/articles/print/volume-41/issue-7/features/safety-practices-must-be-enforced-for-ems-providers.html
Streger, Matthew R (2007, May 1) Personal cell phones have their uses in EMS. Retrieved from: http://www.emsworld.com/article/10321900/personal-cell-phones-have-their-uses-in-ems
Jonathon Walker has been a Licensed Paramedic in Texas since 2002. He has a Bachelor's degree in EMS Administration from Columbia Southern University and has been teaching EMS since 2010, for various services.