The above trailer is for the documentary film “Firestorm”. In the film it depicts the LA County Fire Department EMS system. This system is described as ground zero for the EMS system problems throughout the country. Every locality on some scale sees a form of these problems. We have essentially become the primary care providers for a large part of our countries population.
Being a medic I see it on a daily basis. Even when not riding the ambulance fire units are sent to a multitude of EMS calls ranging from the serious to the laughable. Further complicating this is the attitude currently in our country. With the economy in shambles, unemployment at a very high rate, and the what is in it for me attitude the phone lines are ringing more than ever to take care of things that at one time people used to handle on their own.
The question is how do we fix it? Education seems to fall on deaf ears and is often met with complaints rather than thanks. Some organizations actually embrace the abuse of their EMS system and providers as they bill for service and collect revune for these transports. Couple that with the expanded level of care we are expected to provide and the morale of todays Advanced Life Support provider is extremely low. I myself have often asked why I made the step from basic provider to Medic a time or two, especially with the added level of responsibility. While my department pays our medics extra that was not the sole reason I became one. I truly belive that with the massive EMS call load we take in, how can you truly provide the best outcome for our customers if you are not trained to handle 70% of the calls we go on. That was 90% of why I made the jump, I will not lie the other percentage was the money.
So maybe the real question is can we fix it at all? I think we can, by applying the same ingenuity to American firefighter is known for. We may have to think outside the box, and we may not be able to throw money at this problem. At some point even extra pay will not entice members to do something they find distasteful.
I do however have some tips/suggestions to make your EMS providers lives easier and more enjoyable
1. If you’re a company officer get on the medic: No not every tour but every once in a while if you’re an Officer that’s a medic pull your day on the medic. If you’re a BLS officer drive the medic. How can you expect your shift members to get excited about something you are not willing to do?
2. Take care of the Medic crew: The medic crew needs to be well fed, and well rested at all times. Do not task the medic with the petty stuff, let them concentrate on running the many EMS calls for service they will no doubt receive that tour. Make sure if they are super busy wash the rig inside and out for them and restock the supplies so they can take a break.
3. The Medic Unit eats first: This kinda goes along with number 2 but the Medic unit is most likely to miss a meal. Do not make them wait to eat. If your shift decides to go out for dinner then make sure you get the medics for them and bring it to them. A lot of times people can push through as long as they get some food in their stomach do let this simple task go by the wayside.
4. Have a good rotation: Obviously this depends on the amount of people you have but make sure your medics are not getting abused by having to ride the medic unit multiple shifts in a row.
5. Listen: This may be the simplest thing you can do as a company officer. If you crew has a complaint listen! You might be able to change nothing, but simply listening to them and letting them vent will make them feel better.
I hope those help, it is literally a war out there folks, and we need people who are going to address the real problem of ER saturation and EMS System abuse. Until then we are on our own behind enemy lines. Like anything else we need to take care of each other, and look for the signs of burnout in ourselves and our brothers. We will get beat down, we will get tired, we will get abused, but we can survive. A wise old Fire Captain told me once “remember it is not this persons 15th call of the day, it is there first”. Simply put no matter how tired, or beat down we are we still have a duty to provide service to our customers no matter how serious, or trivial we feel their emergency is. That same Captain also told me “we do not personalize emergencies, we simply fix them”. Basically do not take it personal, just do your job, do it well and move on to the next one.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!