RIP Mike Smith

EMS lost a giant this morning when paramedic, educator, speaker, author, and patient advocate Mike Smith died of an apparent heart attack.  Mike spoke at several national and state conferences each year, had a monthly Beyond the Books column in EMS World, and co-edited the paramedic textbook my class uses.

I was fortunate to have met Mike about five years ago at Delaware’s state EMS conference.  I taught a portion of ACLS for the EMT, which he developed.  The instructor course consisted of lunch with him and the other instructors.  There were no “bullshit instructor cards” needed, he said.  During lunch we discussed Thom Dick’s People Care, which wrote a portion of.  He voiced frustration of all the examples of bad care that he has witnessed around the country, including one department’s informal “if you can talk, you can walk to the ambulance” policy. “It’s just bad medicine,” I remember he said.  Mike’s black-and-white approach to care resonated with me.  That conversation  prompted me to add a line to an article about how  it is time to draw a line in the sand between good patient care and excuses.  He was one of our loudest voices on the good patient care side.

During one of his presentations at the conference that year, he mentioned how much he enjoyed doing ride-alongs with his students.  Since a knee injury prevented him from lifting a stretcher, he said, this was the closest he could get to doing the work he loved.  This was after 30+ years in the business.   He shared a story about how an elderly patient with a new onset of A-fib had diarrhea in her pants.  Despite protests from the preceptor and the student,  he  washed her off before they left for the hospital.  And after the call he let everyone know how he really felt about good patient care.  That’s what I would want a paramedic to do for my family member, and Mike did it for a stranger.

Mike was a positive influence on my career, and countless others.  His passion for good patient care came out in his speaking and writing.  He left the profession much better than how he found it, but way too soon.

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