Compelled Quagmire

Compelled Quagmire


In a moment of true honesty, with no fear of ridicule, take some time to quietly consider the following examples:

Example 1:

Having finished your meal, you exit the restaurant, with your spouse and child in tow. There is a flash of movement to your right capturing your attention. You notice a masked, hooded person run from the jewelry store connected to the restaurant in the strip mall.

One of the jewelry store employees recognizes you as a ________(firefighter/paramedic/nurse/EMT). He tells you there is another inside, and there was an attempted robbery, and asks for your assistance.

Quagmire 1: What now? Do you go into the jewelry store or not?

If you chose to enter:

Quagmire 2: You notice another person dressed in the same type of mask and hooded sweatshirt. Employees tell you the only injury is to the robber who was briefly unconscious from a strike to the head with a metal ball bat. Now what?

Quagmire 3: The aforementioned robber begins to leave… Now what? Do you attempt to keep him from leaving?

What if you were in uniform, the one that has people calling you “officer”, and were with a partner, not your family? Would you do anything different? If so, what is the reasoning?


Example 2:


While on an ambulance, or rescue unit, you decide to stop at a convenience store to grab a snack and use the restroom. Your partner doesn’t enter with you, opting to work on some paperwork between social media posts. You exit the restroom, drying your hands with the paper towels, you look up and see a robbery in progress. A man armed with a handgun is yelling his demands and pointing his gun, at the clerk and other customers. Flashing to the front of your mind is how many times people have called you “officer” because of the uniform similarities.

Quagmire: What now?


Example 3:

You are your partner are dispatched to a report of a structure fire. Upon arriving at the scene, your partner exits the passenger side, and is immediately struck by a bullet. Down on the ground, your partner is screaming in agony, pleading for your assistance…

Quagmire:  What now? Do you go to your partner and begin to treat the wounds? Would drag them to cover? Consider what a sniper wants in this type of a set-up…


Example 4:

You and your partner are outside your rescue vehicle (insert reason). It’s diesel, so you left It running. Suddenly, a man opens the driver’s door, jumps into the driver’s seat, and places your ambulance/rescue truck in drive.

Quagmire: What now?



A new employee of any chain convenience store is told to comply during a robbery, that their safety is more important that the replaceable items in the store. Bank tellers are taught how to behave in a robbery. Have you considered the consequences of actions or refraining from them, should a person attempt to steal your unoccupied ambulance, or car-jack it while occupied? What if someone attempted to rob you for your narcs?

Repeatedly, stories have surfaced where untrained, unaware staff have felt compelled to intervene in situations they had zero training or tools to handle. Some ended well, others, tragically did not. At no point are we suggesting a person not help someone in need. It is the notion of “compelled” just because they are on-duty, needing actual, factual, consequence consideration. When a person acts in a manner leading to injury or death, history will remember them a hero or a fool, depending upon the circumstances and context. A nurse, medic or EMT, dead from being compelled to intervene, heartbroken family members find no solace their loved one was labeled a hero. Especially when the incident was not a part of their job description.


Compelled to intervene in something (as in a violent encounter) where one has no training, tools, or tactics to recognize the risk/reward is what must be addressed in our culture. Having a small petite female compelled to act in a manner, as that of a large, muscular, male counterpart is simply ludicrous, and by all accounts- -dangerous.


Your employer doesn’t expect (compel) you to drive recklessly for any reason. You are not expected (compelled) to lift unsafe, extricate unsafe, start IVs unsafe, deal with HazMat or communicable diseases unsafe… The list is long; activities/incidents of hazard, occurring on-duty, in which training, tools and tactics are provided, in which staff are reasonably compelled to intervene.



Key Takeaways:


  • Mental preparation is as important as any physical skill one may possess. It is the “what-if” or “if-when” considerations prior to some form of an incident.
  • We are not asking people not to assist in some form of potentially dangerous situation. It is the consideration of the risk/reward based upon training and experience with whatever the danger may be.
  • There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness.
  • As the helpers and fixers, we are often compelled to intervene in situations (with no training, tools or expectations) we would not, if not on duty.
  • There are situations that may be beyond our ability to control. Sometimes it may be best to simply become a good witness for the criminal case.
  • It isn’t about not doing your job. It is about doing so, safely.
  • One moment-in-time can affect the rest of one’s life.


This compelled quagmire is certainly a rabbit hole. In my 20+ years of researching violence in healthcare, I have found it to be an integral part of the reasoning behind many of the criminal assaults. Thing is, while some of the scenario descriptions are changed, each of the examples listed in the beginning of this article really happened…