Let's Digress

The Stone Face

There is a tool that all EMS providers should have, it’s both invaluable and difficult to obtain.It is…the stone face. It’s not as popular or heard about frequently in today’s healthcare setting as it used to be, but it’s still just as valuable.

The stone face can save both you and your patient from having an awkward conversation, judgmental looks, personal offense, etc. The possibilities one has after mastering the stone face are endless.

Essentially, the stone face is a stoic expression of, well, stoicness. The purpose of it is to not show emotion (or minimal emotion) during times when showing emotion would be considered inappropriate. Times such as (but not limited to):

  • When a patient has blowout diarrhea.
  • A broken colostomy bag.
  • Some form of GI bleed.
  • When a patient farts as they move and doesn’t realize it.
  • When a patient has that offensive I-haven’t-bathed-in-3-weeks smell.
  • When the patient has an ironic injury (such as broken and/or stuck items in bodily orifices).
  • During a horrible or disturbingly ironic story that led to the 911 call that we, as healthcare providers who have twisted senses of humor, find amusing, even though we shouldn’t.
  • When the patient is telling a story that is fake and irritating.
  • During times when personal irritation is setting in, regardless of the reason.
  • When a patient says that they weigh “only 250 pounds,” and the EMS provider discovers that they’re really closer to 450 pounds instead.

Those are all times when it would be completely acceptable to utilize the stone face, and there are plenty of other situations not listed.

Don’t forget: While in stone face mode, your face will appear to the untrained eye like you have a mild look of disgust or contempt. That is okay. If the stone face has to be engaged, you most likely have a reason to be disgusted or contemptuous. It is far better than the alternative of letting your full range of emotions be displayed in high definition all across your face.

The stone face takes copious amounts of practice; it’s not something to be taken lightly. Some people are naturally better at it than others, but like our patient assessments, it’s one of those things everyone can always improve at.

Most cot jockeys are far from having the stone face mastered, especially the overly sensitive ones and the ones who are still a little wet behind the ears. During times of visual or olfactory misfortune, they’re the first to crack a poorly timed smile or a look of disgusted horror as they see the patient’s bedroom that happens to also double as a shrine for panda’s wearing tutus, or when they catch a whiff of a week old GI bleed.

The latter is usually followed by a vomiting spell. Actually, there’s a theory about the correlation between people who have weak stomachs and being excessively emotional, but most social circles just call them “weenies.” However, that is a different article entirely.

The stone face has been used in the healthcare and EMS setting for decades. Two of the founding fathers of EMS, Johnny and Roy from Emergency, practically invented it.

It is our job, as the current group of navy-clad cargo pants wearing hooligans, to train this next generation in the sacred ways of how to use the stone face wisely and responsibly.

May you always stare stoically.


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