After a minor car collision (front airbags deployed), an ambulance arrived to see if I had sustained any injuries.

One of the questions they asked was 'What day is it?' as in Monday, Tuesday etc.

What is this testing for? Possible concussion? Shock?

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    To see if you were mentally impaired by trauma, drugs, disease etc. Jul 28, 2018 at 1:44
  • Ah I see. So if I didn't know the day, then that may result into further testing - such as blood drug/alcohol content and/or breathalyze?
    – Ben10
    Jul 28, 2018 at 4:27
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    For the sake of completion: Orientation and alertness tests include who, where/what and when. Who is covered with Hello, we are X, what is your name?, where/what is covered with Can you tell me what happened?. Both of these questions actually have further value beyond patient assessment. When is a bit ridiculous to ask if the incident happens just now, and then only serves as assessment, but for stroke symptoms (e.g.), it is rather important because treatment varies widely depending on time. This is why only when struck you as an odd question, while those are actually triplets.
    – Narusan
    Jul 29, 2018 at 15:29

1 Answer 1


It was an assessment of your mental status. It's usually among the first questions an EMT will ask. The purpose is to determine if your are mentally alert and oriented. The reasons for this assessment are to look for possible brain injury (concussion or worse) and also other causes such as intoxication with alcohol or drugs, low blood sugar, and other conditions that can cause mental confusion. It also has legal ramifications. If they judge you to be mentally incompetent, your right to make medical decisions for yourself is extinguished, including the right to refuse care (I'm assuming US law here, but most developed countries are similar).

This assessment has significant impact on the actions they take next. If you fail the test, they'll be wondering if your confusion is a result of injury from the crash or something else. Intoxication is always high on the list of possibilities, and so is low blood sugar. You would likely be asked if you are diabetic at that point, and they would probably do a finger stick to check blood sugar levels no matter what your answer. If your blood sugar is normal then they'll have to assume you've suffered head injury from the crash and expedite you accordingly. The smell of alcohol on your breath or signs of intoxication wouldn't change this course of events because drunks suffer head injuries too.

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    Furthermore, if the patient isn’t alert and oriented,medical staff will happily ignore most of the patients remarks. If a patient suffering from dementia is claiming they haven’t hurt themselves, haven’t done X etc. it will be double-checked. So, it Is also a good indicator of the trustworthiness of a patient‘s claims.
    – Narusan
    Jul 28, 2018 at 12:20

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