Learn how to keep control of camera crews in your ED

ED managers experienced with camera crews offer this advice on how to tightly control the project:

Emphasize the need for minimal physical intrusion.

This is a special concern in the ED, as opposed to other areas of the hospital, says Kathleen J. Clem, MD, FACEP, chief of emergency medicine at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.

Train the camera crews — usually just one or two people — on how the ED works, and provide extremely specific instructions on what they can and can’t do.

For example, you should show them where they are allowed to stand during a trauma, emphasize that that is only place they can stand, and strictly enforce that rule. The camera operator must not move around to get better shots.

Allow patients a period of time to rescind their consent.

To ensure that patients truly consent to having their images used, Duke allowed patients six weeks to change their mind after signing the consent form in the ED. This policy addressed concerns that patients or family members might be too stressed to give informed consent during an emergency.

Make sure your staff are comfortable being videotaped.

Your staff’s privacy rights must be considered along with the patients’ rights. At Duke, some staff did not want to be part of the project. At the beginning of every shift in the ED, the camera crew was informed who did not want to be videotaped, and it was the camera crew’s responsibility to work around them.

Rely heavily on your hospital’s news or public affairs office.

The camera crew always should be escorted by a representative from your hospital who handles the media. That person should be responsible for ensuring that the camera crew follows all the ground rules, obtains consent, and doesn’t interfere with patient care, Clem says. Do not expect your staff to baby-sit the camera crew; they don’t have the time. Smaller hospitals may have more difficulty with such projects because the public affairs office might consist of one person, who can’t be expected to work with the camera crew at all times, Clem cautions. In those situations, another hospital administrator may suffice.

Forbid the use of camera lights.

The camera crew should make do with available lighting instead of using special lighting on the camera. Those lights are far too intrusive and can interfere with patient care, Clem says.

Demand that the ground rules be followed absolutely and without argument.

If the camera crew balks or argues with you, inform the public affairs representative and consider ending the project. Do not let the camera crew become a nuisance by not following the rules it agreed to.

Make sure the camera crew is properly identified.

When a camera crew visited the ED recently at Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, PA, emergency physician Richard O’Brien, MD, FACEP, made sure the five crew members wore identification issued by the hospital. He also had the hospital’s chief of security escort the crew at all times, partly to reassure hospital staff.

"We wanted everyone to know they were formally invited to the campus, not like some news magazine [staff] snuck in and [were] creeping around on their own," he says.