A Dark and Stormy Night

Well, for the last month now we have been using electronic run forms. For the most part, I like them. I like most being able to type out an extended narrative, instead of trying to scribble it all into a confined space. (I know you could always attach a supplemental page, but I rarely did.) I like that people can read my writing now.

I’ve never considered myself a great run form writer. I would scrawl out a basic template that, if you could make out the chicken scratch, usually went something like this:

“76-year-old female not feeling well since last night. Denies chest pain or dsypnea. Vomited X-1. No diarrhea. Found supine in bed. GCS-15, skin warm dry, lungs clear, ab soft non-tender, good neuros. Vitals as below. Sinus, no ST aberrations. IV # 20 in Left forearm. S. Lock. BS-144. Taken to hospital, turned over to ED staff with full report.”

But now with a keyboard and an unlimited space, I can be more free-flowing.

I did a call recently involving an old man found curled up in his apartment with altered mental status (See Sha La Lala Lala, Live For Today).

The next day I received an email from the hospital’s Clinical Coordinator asking for a copy of the form for my stroke patient. I guessed he was talking about the old man found curled up in his apartment who was possibly a stroke patient. But I knew I had given a copy of my run form to the nurse as well as put a second copy in the QA box, which I told the Coordinator in a return email.

Still, I spent a sleepless night, wondering if I had done something wrong.

He emailed me back that the reason he was looking for the form was because the stroke doctor (the patient did have a head bleed) said it was one of the best run forms he had ever read.

I emailed him back asking if he was sure it was my patient and not one brought in by my relief later in the day. I said I did not think I wrote very good run forms and it was likely my relief who wrote excellent ones.

He emailed me back that it was indeed my patient, and that the doctor had been very impressed with the narrative that was full of information (scene description, co-worker’s account, etc.) that had been very helpful to him.

The narrative. Yes! I had written quite a detailed narrative.

Suddenly I began to understand the meaning of it all.

I’ve written novels, essays, memoirs, speeches, poems, blog posts, and now I can write RUN FORMS!

Writers so love audiences. Might I say, we desperately crave them.

Now I have an entirely new audience.

Nurses, ED physicians, stroke doctors, cardiologists, trauma surgeons, internists, maybe even medical records personnel.

Now each time I sit down to do an electronic run form, after checking the obligatory boxes, my heart rises as I begin to type. I think I mustn’t disappoint my readership. I must educate and entertain them. I must make them feel as if they were there on the call with me. Ahh, the poetry of it!

After a motor vehicle accident, I ponder a moment, and then inspiration strikes.

I type:

“It was a dark and stormy night…”


  • Michael Morse says:

    With little to during transport of chronic alcoholic 911 abusers, I get a little carried away.55 y/o male found sleeping beneath park bench, no obvious signs of trauma, empty half pint of vodka nearby possibly responsible for patient’s peaceful repose. Vitals remarkably stable for an urban outdoorsman, 110/68, hr 64, resp. 20. Pt transported to ER to be treated and released. Again.I always wondered if anybody read my stuff!

  • Ambulance Driver says:

    LOL…that, Peter, was beautiful.

  • Mark says:

    Hah, love the ending, great post man.

  • RevMedic says:

    Great post, Peter. I love it that you are so excited about your new reading audience!I just got an e-mail from my former supervisor. He was going through some old charts and found one that I wrote:Since I am the Excel and Data guru at XXXXXX, I am responsible for playing catch-up with all our response time data. Sometimes, when investigating delayed responses, I have to pull up old charts. I guess during your “short-timer” period… you had some creative documentation. “Coldpack held in place with piratical bandage….” Creative documentation at it’s finest.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m just as excited as you to hear that they read our run forms! Even though everyone says they do, I’m still skeptical. This is a nice thing to hear.

  • Walt Trachim says:

    I have really become fond of electronic PCR’s. It does, in fact, make it easier to write about the urban outdoorsy types as well as those with Borderline Personality Disorder who try to make us think they want to hurt themselves when all they really want is an audience….Awesome post, Peter.

  • AlisonH says:

    What a great punchline!!!

  • Medix311 says:

    I have had a similar experience in switching to electronic PCRs. I, too, tend to write longer, more detailed reports that are easier to read and comprehend. One down side:Last year, during our big December storm when power was out for a week and we were unable to use the electronic PCRs. We had to later input all of our runs into the system when it came back online. There are advantages to the old paper, carbon-copies.

  • PJ Geraghty says:

    I considered it one of the finest moments of my career as a fire officer when my run reports would generate either laughter or a complaint. Both occurred.Unfotunately, the EMS side was still using paper when I was there. The only report I ever got complimented on was one that I wrote on a hospital progress note because I didn't have any run forms in the ambulance. I signed it and left my unit & phone number, and the doc actually called to discuss it.

  • goooooood girl says:

    Good good good……

  • Rogue Medic says:

    The only doctors who would call for information about the charts were the specialists – internal medicine, cardiology, . . ., we never would get any calls from the emergency department, except to relay requests to call the specialist.You do realize that they will not allow PCRs to compete for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, due to HIPAA, and charts are not supposed to be fiction.There is no rule of chart writing that states you may not make observations that could be described as humorous.

  • Jennifer says:

    I’m an ED nurse and I love reading a well written run form! Keep up the good writting- I’ll pass an interesting on to all the other nurses and docs on.