Unnecessary stress is bad. I don’t like it, and try to do everything I can to lessen its presence in my life. EMS is full of stress, much of it unnecessary. I hope to do a short series on ways to reduce EMS stress from your life. Here’s post # 1. Flight of McFerrin
I usually don’t drive. I believe the paramedic should sit in the shot gun seat so when we arrive on scene, I can hop out and get to work. I don’t have to bother with all the parking details. I jump out, grab my gear from the side door and go to work.
But when I precept, which I have been doing a lot lately, I drive and my preceptee sits in the shot gun seat. I do enjoy driving, but sometimes it can be stressful. Blasting the sirens and air horn, cars not pulling over, not stopping, turning in front of you. I find myself cussing and expressing disgust at the other driver’s ignorance and stupidity.
My old partner Arthur used to get so upset at the other traffic, he would chase after cars that didn’t pull over. He would race right up to their bumpers and slam the air horn. He would get so focused on their disrespecting our lights and sirens that he would forget what he was doing. “Arthur,” I would say, “Arthur! Our turn was back there.”
If you focus too much on the other traffic’s crazy behavior or take it personally, it gets you all riled up. Sometimes when I am driving on the highway and a car passes me on the left, I feel the urge to speed up and get on their bumper, just to get them to submit to my sirens.
I hate to admit it, but I pulled an Arthur the other day. Missed my turn. This of course is bad and stressful, and I do not advocate it.
Do not take the other driver’s behavior personally.
One thing most of us ambulance drivers ( and we do drive ambulances) learn is that if you outrun your sirens, the traffic will not respond in the way you want. This lesson is best learned not in the ambulance, but driving your own car and having an ambulance come up on your suddenly with its sirens on. You often see the ambulance before you hear it if it is traveling too fast.
Give the other driver’s time to hear your sirens and then pull over. If you are coming up on them too fast, they will either not hear you or react in time, or you will startle them and they will panic. Drop back a few Mph, and it is amazing sometimes, how the traffic will part.
I am not saying I always do this, but when I do, it is much less stressful.
I am behind the wheel today as I write this, and my goal today is to be a mellow driver. This ambulance has a CD player. Or I could plug in my I-Tunes through the cigarette lighter to play a little background music to inspire my driving.
If I were doing the soundtrack to a Hollywood movie about EMS, these would be great sounds for the driving soundtrack.
Dick Dale – Pipeline
Guns and Roses – Welcome to the Jungle
But they are bad tunes to drive to in real life, although I admit I have hummed “Pipeline” to myself as I have driven in and out of traffic.
Instead, I recommend some Bob Marley. “Jamming” is perfect. Also, any classic waltzes.
You might also want to consider hooking your sound system into your PA. In Apocalypse Now, Robert Duval plays the crazy Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore who commands the Air Calvary. He straps a giant sound system to his helicopter and blares Wagner’s “The Flight of the Vulkyries when they attack the Viet Cong stronghold to scare the enemy.
Instead, as a stress reliever, I would suggests a Brahms Lullabye or Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on approach to riotous scenes.
Just a suggestion.
Here’s an interesting PSA about driving: