Since Monday's premiere of NBC's Trauma, the EMS community has been restless with heated remarks and calls for cancellation.

A day before the premiere, JEMS Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman, MPA, EMT-P, posted a review of the series, predicting it was "ripe for 'Do Not Resuscitate' orders."

As a nationally recognized MCI expert, Heightman objected in particular to the multi-vehicle car-versus-gasoline truck collision, which led to what he called "the most unethical EMS behavior you'll ever see."

Heightman summarized his reaction with a plea to the characters of the beloved "Emergency!" series -- "Johnny and Roy, please don't watch this show. Stop by my house, and we'll do shots of Ipecac instead."

In the past few days, Heightman's article has received numerous comments and attracted several thousand extra hits to

One of the most notable comments was posted by Mike Whooley, paramedic captain for San Francisco Fire Department EMS. He wrote that Jeff Covitz, the show's medical advisor, is one of his paramedics and that he vouches for Covitz's unsuccessful fight with the writers. Whooley noted, "We (SFFD EMS) all pretty much knew it was going to be bad based on the almost daily reports we were getting from own standby crews."

However, Whooley also seems to think we're all being too hard on Hollywood, adding, "It's a TV show and any relationship to reality is tangential at best."

Since Heightman's review, others have been sharing their reactions via JEMS Connect and the JEMS Facebook fan page. These social forums have documented the evolution of responses: In May, users seemed excited by the trailer, but immediately after the premiere aired the comments took on a predominantly negative tone.

Even on NBC's message board for the show, the most popular discussion thread is dedicated to complaints.

On, one user commented that "We need to complain to the network -- and their advertisers. Money is the only language Hollywood comprehends."

And that's exactly what some EMS organizations are doing.

As chair of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and columnist for JEMS, Gary Ludwig today sent a letter to Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment Jeff Gaspin, expressing the organization's "deep and sincere displeasure" with the show. Ludwig cited many of the concerns echoing across social networks and, including the portrayal of EMS professionals engaging in sexual acts while on duty and condoning medical procedures outside the standard of care.

"The show is an injustice to the many professionals who work in emergency medical services and dedicate themselves to the preservation of life each and every day in the United States," Ludwig wrote.

In the letter, the IAFC EMS Section offered its expertise to guide future episodes. But like others who have been vocal since Monday's premiere, Ludwig called for the show's cancellation if it cannot be modified to accurately portray EMS.

The National Association of EMTs (NAEMT) has also taken action. According to its Web site, many members called and e-mailed their feedback to the association, and in response, NAEMT President Patrick Moore communicated with Gaspin to further impress upon the network the concerns of the 800,000 EMS professionals across the country. NAEMT offered its advisory services as well.

It seems many EMTs and paramedics were willing to give this show a chance -- even hoped it would be a success -- but are now left feeling once again insulted by the entertainment industry.

At least the public seems to be on our side: The ratings signaled an "implosion," according to TV by the Numbers.

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Comment by Scott Bendixen on November 16, 2009 at 6:27pm
It's a tv show not a documentary
Comment by Jessica on October 25, 2009 at 1:09pm
I agree Mike & Joe.
Comment by Joe Paczkowski on October 24, 2009 at 9:25pm
"Here's an article by someone from the publishing/entertainment world that seems to get our point. The writer interviews several ACTUAL medical professional and let's them describe what these new medical shows are getting right -- and what they're not. "Trauma" gets a short review by the administration chief of Pittsburgh EMS Bureau Paramedics. Read it here. "

Yea, but almost half of those commentators have no clue what they're talking about. Having a cardiac monitor technician giving a medical/nursing review for a show?

My personal favorite gem was at the end of the Trauma review by Pittsburgh EMS's administration chief. "Finally, an intern who talked to a veteran paramedic in manner depicted in the premiere would be reprimanded. An intern is there to learn."

Sorry sparky, but a medical intern is a different breed compared to other health care interns. An intern like what you're complaining about (i.e. "just there to learn") is more akin to a third or fourth year medical student doing clerkships. A medical intern is a licensed physician (albeit a limited license during PGY1) who has completed medical school (thus they have a medical degree) and is in his first year of graduate medical education (post graduate year 1, PGY1). Saying that "an intern is there to learn" completely miss represents what a medical intern is. When you're transporting a patient to a hospital with an emergency medicine residency, you are more likely than not to be handing over care to the residents (led by the senior residents, overseen by the attending physicians). Are you going to be telling the third year residents (who, in fact, have unrestricted licenses to practice medicine) that they are just "there to learn?" To compare medical education to EMS education, an intern is more similar to a provider going through field training while a third and fourth year medical student is more like an EMS student doing clinicals.

Regardless, the actual line would be unprofessional and shouldn't be brushed off regardless of if the person saying it was a student physician, resident physician, or attending physician.
Comment by Bill Young on October 24, 2009 at 3:39pm
If this is an inaccurate portryal of EMS, are tlling me these things don't occur?? Look at these headlines:
Louisville EMT suspended, charged with child molestation

Florida Responder Cited in Fatal Ambulance Wreck

Man Dies After Head-on Crash with Ambulance. EMS Deiver cited.

A paramedic accused of plotting to extort $25 million from actor John Travolta after his 16-year-old son died in the Bahamas told a jury Wednesday the boy had been dead for some time before the ambulance service was called

Four lawsuits brought by women who claimed to have been molested by an EMT while being transported in an ambulance have settled just weeks after an Oregon jury awarded another woman more than $3 million.

Former Colo. Paramedic Found Guilty In Ambulance Assault

This is not from Hollywood, this is real life. Why don't we spend as much energy complaining about these REAL EMS issues instead of woryying about what a ficticious show MIGHT do to our profession
Comment by Lisa Bell on October 20, 2009 at 11:28am
Also, here is NBC's response to the IAFC (courtesy of Chief Ludwig)
Comment by Lisa Bell on October 20, 2009 at 11:17am
Here's an article by someone from the publishing/entertainment world that seems to get our point. The writer interviews several ACTUAL medical professional and let's them describe what these new medical shows are getting right -- and what they're not. "Trauma" gets a short review by the administration chief of Pittsburgh EMS Bureau Paramedics. Read it here.
Comment by Nathan Stanaway on October 16, 2009 at 7:12pm
I agree with you 100% Joe! We are, almost always, our own worst enemy.
Comment by Joe Paczkowski on October 8, 2009 at 12:56pm
"Regarding the impact of "Trauma" on the public's perception of EMS, I think some of our colleagues do far more damage to our collective reputation than any TV show will do."

I completely agree. What's more damaging to EMS, anything in either episode, or posts like this on the NBC forum?

"this show is total garbage. whats worse it is putting ems in a light that is not favorable. on this show..everyone makes it, ems are all supermen and if u call us, everything will be ok. that is total bull!! whoever is the medical consult on this show has obviously never been on an ambulance. i've yet to see an intubation, here is a hint to your director, everyone you put on o2, try turning it on boneheads, the o2 resevoirs on the non rebreathers are empty. try to at least portray real patient care. the maverick "rabbit" a lone medical guy on a air ambulance... what is this???? he is a medic, yet there is no one else besides the pilot on the helo helping him. another hint for your director, air medical has a medic, an rn and sometimes respirtory therapist or md's onboard in ADDITION to the medic. making him a maverick hero is sending the wrong mesage to the public. he uses family members of the patients to do patient care. this is complete crap!. try that in the real world and you are unemployed because you would lose your licesnse. the acting is lame at best. the er doc... come on guys. idiot. at least when you had the ER series on thurday nights, it was close to real world, hyped a little but close. the first episode had them landing a helo on a ac unit on a high rise for a cpr. then saving him and flying off into a news helo, crashing, killing all but rabbit who miraculously is ejected onto a roof and is in a coma for 6 months. he comes back to work on the 1 year anniversary of the crash. i feel like my IQ dropped 30 points by watching the 1st 2 episodes. i wont watch any more. please re-do this series or drop it."


There are probably another 100 posts (the official "hate" board has over 350 posts in it) that are just as unprofessional, or worse (at least this post doesn't have any cussing). Personally, I'd rather be affiliated with a Rabbit, Nancy, or any other character on that show (at the very least they are articulate) than the majority of real life "paramedics" who are complaining about the show on the public NBC website.
Comment by Mike Rubin on October 8, 2009 at 12:28pm
I think Shawn raises a provocative issue: do producers of entertainment media have a moral responsibility to consider how their products might adversely modify the behavior of viewers? I have mixed feelings about that. I think we should all make an effort to set good examples, no matter what occupation or pastime we're pursuing. However, I also think it's acceptable to hold adults responsible for imitating behavior that is not clearly presented as instructional.

Regarding the impact of "Trauma" on the public's perception of EMS, I think some of our colleagues do far more damage to our collective reputation than any TV show will do.
Comment by Shawn on October 7, 2009 at 5:34pm
It's just plain wrong. It's a poor innacurate depiction of what we do. It's bad PR. SO what if it's "just a tv show" was emergency. Granted that there were SOME far fetched scenes on Emergency, but THAT'S TV. The majority of people will understand and even expect some embellishment but come on...I remember an issue with people breaking other peoples ribs because they were performing precordial thump on people who fell out because they "saw it on tv".
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