I have been thinking about all this rant business, and promised some thoughts on it. I was on the phone the other day trying to get an issue resolved with a telephone person and I was frustrated and trying to get her to understand my dilemma and how it wasn’t my problem, but their problem. I raised my voice a couple times. She remained unfailingly polite, even though she probably wanted to hang up on me or tell me to stop yelling. Maybe she is just used to people yelling at her in her job or maybe if she was rude back to me, she would be fired because after all it is a taped line. You know the “someone may be listening in” message you always get.
I have also over the years been to doctors’ offices and dentists’ offices and always found the people polite and friendly, even if they looked like they were having a bad day. I was a customer and they tried to always at least smile, even if they were making me wait or screwing up my bill. No doubt if they had been rude to me, I would have gone looking for another doctor.
Which brings us to EMS and I will include the ED in this. I have never seen more rude behaviour toward patients or people anywhere. Sure most of the time most of us are polite, but a lot of the time, some of us at least can be real jerks to patients and other people like nursing home staff. Don’t you dare vomit in my truck. Your legs aren’t hurt, you can walk. You’re just going to have to wait, there are sicker people than you. A nonreabreather at 2 liters, what you trying to do, suffacate them? Etc.
Giving someone a good telling off seems to be an admirable thing in EMS.
So why are we rude and why do we rant about the people- the patients — who are such a bother to us?
A part of it, I think is a sense of moral superiority. We are doing this job for crappy pay because we supposedly love it and we are lifesavers, so don’t waste our time if your life doesn’t need saving.
Another part is we at the caregiver level in emergency medicine aren’t paid based on customer satisfaction level at least in the immediate sense. If we saw more pay at the end of the day based on customer surveys, you can bet we would be nicer.
Another part is we have a monopoly. The patient can’t chose who responds. They are stuck with us. Company A is rude to them, the next time they call 911, they can’t ask for company B. They get company A. EDs at least — they can go across town and they often do, where unfortunately they get the same the hell with you treatment because there are more sick people than hospitals can handle so they don’t have to worry about offending people. Business is too good.
The final part is we very rarely get fired for being rude. You have to be pretty out of control to lose your job in EMS for being rude. You make a racial or religious slur, you will be fired. Aside from that, the only people I have ever heard of being fired for being rude to patients are ones who ended up physically assaulting the patient — punching them or trying to smother them with a pillow.
So what of all this rant and rude business — I tend to rant more than I am rude, but I find neither attractive. I will try not to do it if I can help it. I am in this work of my own choosing, so there must be enough rewards in it. Most days there are.
I was just talking about this issue with an EMT friend and he said something really funny. In our ambulances we have black boxes that beep when we drive too fast, take a corner too hard, backup without a spotter or don’t wear a seat belt, all the while recording the violation to computer for review and score at the end of the month. He said he was waiting for the day they put black boxes on us. They would beep whenever you swore or raised your voice or were rude.