A few days ago on our employees only Facebook page, someone posted a picture another person had taken of one of our crews while they were parked by the side of a street. The driver leaned against the window, arms folded, eyes closed. The passenger had his eyes open, but he was slouched down in his seat. They were clearly in rest mode, but it wasn’t like they needed Narcan. The comment was if they wanted to sleep, they should find a more secluded spot than a downtown street. The concern was every crew represents all of EMS, and the poster thought this crew looked unprofessional.
A fair point, perhaps, but I admit I felt bad for the crew to be shamed by a few fellow employees (the comments mainly agreed with the poster). There are few days I have worked when either myself or my partner have not been guilty of shutting our eyes at some point in the shift. I can’t say there hasn’t been snoring at times. (Most in EMS work either mega-overtime or multiple jobs in addition to trying to raise families and fatigue in EMS has been well-documented in the literature). It’s why I like to find out of the way spots. Not that we get a lot of downtime. Our service utilizes system status management so we are constantly on the go. If you are not on a call, you are headed to a posting location to wait for a call, and sometimes sent to another location as soon as you arrive at the first one. At least our management is not too rigid about where we post as long as we are in proximity to the stated posting location.
I am six-foot-eight and sixty years old so it is almost impossible for me to sit folded up in the passenger seat for too long. I have to get out and stretch. I bring a basketball with me and sometimes will find a court to shoot on (my radio on my belt), or I will just stand outside the ambulance practicing spinning the basketball on my finger. I took my daughter to see the Harlem Globetrotters last year and have challenged myself this year to master the finger spin. My goal is to have my picture taken with a Globetrotter with both of us smiling while spinning basketballs, during the pregame photo session. I have already purchased the “Magic Pass” tickets.
The other day, my partner and I were in Bushnell Park (covering downtown) and a local TV cameraman showed up to take some footage of the park ambiance and scenery. When he was done, putting his camera back into his truck, which was parked right behind us, he told me the film was for the weather segment. He said not to worry. He didn’t take any footage of me spinning the basketball as he imagined if my boss saw it, my boss would call me into his office and ask me to bring my basketball. He thought he was doing me a solid, but I was disappointed. I had imagined calling my daughter and saying be sure to watch the weather tonight, you’ll see a basketball superstar doing tricks. The cameraman didn’t understand. The fact that I am standing outside the ambulance spinning a basketball doesn’t mean I am lazy or goofing off. It’s just what I do sometimes while waiting for a call.
I feel the same about the crew that was getting some rest. What matters to me, at least, is not whether they are sitting bolt upright in the seats, eyes open, hands on the steering wheel and the map book ready to respond, but that when their number is called, they hear it, answer the radio, respond quickly and safely, and treat their patients with skill, kindness, and empathy.
Peace to all.