Why is EMS Documentation Hard to Do?

We hear it

Working in an EMS billing office, we hear it over and over.

“I hate writing patient care reports.”

Add the… “It’s too hard.” “It’s boring.” “It puts me to sleep.” “I never know what to write and how to write it.”

Why is EMS Documentation Hard to Do?Then there’s the… “Can’t you write me a template and I can just fill in the blanks?” “Isn’t there an App out there that will write the PCR narrative for me?” “Why do I need to write a narrative anyway?”

Most people don’t like writing…

Those of us who made it through any level of education had to write at some point in our educational process. Do you remember putting the writing part off to the very last minute while in school?

We do!

We look at writing as a task- a task we really don’t enjoy and so we procrastinate.

“7 Reasons Why Most People Find Writing Hard to Do”

Freelance writer Bakan Chavanu* penned an article by this title three years ago. He offers these 7 reasons why he believes we disdain writing.

We think this amply applies to EMS charting. See if you agree.

Lacking the Nuts and Bolts

Chavanu is of the belief that most teachers do not adequately teach the nuts and bolts of writing. He asserts that more time is spent teaching grammar and spelling rules over assisting students with building writing fluency.

Students today at even the beginning levels of education are not motivated by tasks that they must sit and think about. We have created a video culture where we look to be entertained and visually stimulated. So when we ask a student to sit and think and, God forbid, put those thoughts into writing it’s like we are sentencing them to hard labor.

And thus, those students graduate, become EMS providers and fail miserably at chronicling their EMS scenarios on paper.

No Practice

Writing takes practice. Good writing requires fluency. Not a single one of us sat down the first time to write anything on a piece of paper and did it flawlessly.

The more we write, the better we’ll be at writing. It’s that simple.

Little Understanding of What Writing Is

Our educational system focuses of grades. In today’s system of teaching students to beat the standardized testing “game”, we teach students to achieve a number, a rating. Unfortunately, we increasingly fail to teach students how to find the process that works for his/her brain much less put those thoughts down on paper.

We learn via documentation. We learn to be better at what we do when we record what we do. History is a great teacher and we’re missing the educational value of a well-written patient care report in EMS.

Writing is story-telling on paper. Once we understand that the rest falls in place.

Writing Well = Reading Well

Chavanu asserts (and we agree) that good writers are good readers.  We don’t like to read because we have to sit still to read and EMS providers don’t do sitting well.

Join the QA/QI team at your EMS agency and read PCRs. Learn to critique them and we deduce that you’ll learn to be a better documenter. Plus, you’ll pay it forward by mentoring someone to document well later in your EMS career.


Today we have tools that can help us. Use them…but then again that takes effort. We like to approach EMS documenting passively instead of actively and so we don’t use the tools available to us.

ePCR programs have revolutionized EMS documentation but only if we use those tools correctly. Allow the ePCR program to prompt you and remind you of the data elements that you’ll then fill in the blanks between in order to create your written narrative.

Use spell-check and don’t hesitate to Google search topics on good writing and read them!


Much of EMS is about discovery. We learn every day in this profession. Part of that process is learning how to record what we do so we can review what we did later to make it even better. It’s a vital skill and we think it’s just as vital as the processes we learn to actually save lives hands-on.

But the “blood and guts stuff” is exciting. Writing is not exciting.


Finally, the author reminds us that writing takes time.

EMS providers don’t have a lot of time…well, at least we think we don’t but maybe we have more time than we realize and we just don’t make good use of it.

Good time management often is the difference between well-written EMS documentation versus documentation that is lacking in details and accuracy.

*”7 Reasons Why Most People Find Writing Hard to Do”; Writing, Writing Tips, Bakan Chavanu, February 19, 2013 bakarichavanu.com.

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