As some of you probably know, last weekend I went to the Fire Department Instructors’ Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, IN and I spent a great deal of time wandering the convention floor, looking at cool things and talking to cool people. There were plenty of great things to see and great new things to learn about and I immersed myself in doing just that. One of the things I’m always interested in is looking at the new trends in ambulance design and the manufacturers always have their coolest new vehicles on display to feed my interest. However, while walking the conference floor, I came across an ambulance that did more to tick me off than it did to promote their new vehicle design. Seriously, it was like someone slapped me in the face. Here’s the picture I took from my phone:
Does anybody see anything wrong with that picture? I was immediately ticked off… I’m talking a level 7 hissy fit. I was livid for quite a while and if you follow my twitter feed, you probably saw the three or four times I TwitPic’d it.
I mean really? They had to put “Staffed By Nurses” in six inch high script on three sides of this thing?
I blocked out the name of the service that runs the ambulance and in all fairness to the manufacturer, this truck is awesome. I would be quite happy to work in this truck although being that it has no bench seat, its usefulness as a 911 truck is hampered by its inability to carry more than one patient at a time. However, I would flatly refuse to work in this truck or for the ambulance service that puts it on the street. I happen to know the service that bought it and I’m trying to avoid naming them directly, but they serve a midsize city in Illinois.
Before you go all West Side Story, whip out your switch blade and zip gun, and prepare to have a dance fight with the nurses out there, realize that I’m not mad at them. Sure, mostly they’re well-paid and have climate controlled jobs inside of well-lit buildings, but they didn’t do this to us. My beef is with the management of this particular ambulance service.
So, let’s say that you’re the manager of this particular ambulance service. Obviously, sitting there in your office you must think that your paramedics and EMTs are contemptible morons who live simply to cause you problems. Furthering your view of the world, you probably think that the rest of the medical profession and the members of the general public in your area view them the same way and simply don’t trust them to provide medical care when it’s like *really* complicated and stuff. You probably feel that everyone would feel safer knowing that their patient or loved one is traveling via the companionship of “nurses” whom you must view as actually being like actually *Competent* and stuff.
And that’s what this rolling billboard to your contempt of your employees and their profession says about you. It’s a slap in the face to the good men and women you have working for you and there is flatly no excuse for it.
Here’s a tip, anonymous ambulance manager person (AAMP). There isn’t a need to have your precious ambulance be “staffed by nurses” when you have sufficiently equipped and prepared paramedics working in it. Paramedics are acute care specialists. We’re also experts in mobile medicine. Our education, training, and experience prepare us for the unique environment that we create when we move patients from one place to another. Critical Care Paramedics have the intensive Care experience, training, and background needed to operate in a critical care ambulance environment, nurses do not. Sure, ICU and ER nurses are great at Critical Care. However you shouldn’t regularly staff a critical care nurse in the transport environment for the same reasons that you wouldn’t put a critical care paramedic inside of the ICU. The professions are like in a lot of ways, but they’re separate for a good reason.
And you, AAMP, don’t respect that. Perhaps it’s because you’re burnt out. Perhaps it’s because you’ve beaten the system you’ve created into such a pulp that nobody wanted to staff your new Critical Care Truck. Perhaps it’s because of a lot of reasons, but it’s certainly not because you wanted the best in patient care or to show that your employees are capable of operating your shiny new “special” ambulance. No, you wanted “nurses” to “staff” that truck… and not only did you want the medical people you’re contracting with to know this, you wanted everyone who saw the truck to know it as the 6 inch high letters stating that fact clearly show. Do you think that the public views your crews as incompetent? If so, do you think that furthering the notion by advertising that your “special” truck is “staffed by nurses” will help that situation?
If your protocols are so draconian that even critical care certified paramedics cannot be allowed to staff that truck, then your protocol system is in the Stone Age. If your educational system isn’t up to the challenge of preparing your most experienced medics to staff it, then fix that problem. I know that there are great medic/nurse combos out there and I know that flight nurses have garnered quite a bit of respect out there in the world… and heck, I’m not knocking them for doing it. However, this is the time for Paramedics to step up and claim our turf. This ambulance clinched it for me. AAMP, your shortsightedness has caused me to lead a revolution of sorts here. You’re contempt for your staff has indicated to me that now is the time for paramedics and EMTs, such as the ones that work for you, to stand up and start claiming what is rightfully ours. Frankly, AAMP, your ambulance and your attitude is ridiculous and thinking like that must be stamped out right now by the good medics among us.
And I should also say this to the nurses in the audience before you start skewering me for knocking you: Have you looked at the debates in your circles concerning the use of paramedics in the ER and in other hospital units? Have you ever seen the term “Unlicensed Assistive Personnel”? Well I have, and it’s what the upper nursing echelon calls me and my professional colleagues. It’s offensive, but hey… our jobs are different. You have the hospitals and the fixed facilities. That’s what you do. We have the field. It’s what we do. There’s a line, respect it. If you want to do EMS, go through a real paramedic program. If we want to do nursing, we should go to nursing school. Really, it’s that simple. The transport environment is difficult and requires the use of specialized personnel… which we have, they’re called paramedics. The medical care we provide is close to the care that you provide, except we have autonomy that you do not and we are use to working independently in the environment in which we operate. Your focus is different than mine. You may be the best transport nurse out there, but even though you personally may be awesome, my profession needs to have people as awesome as you working on our side. That’s what this is about, not to knock your transport nursing skills, but to kick us paramedics in the shorts and get us to step up and maintain ownership of what we should own.
The responses I got back on Twitter show me that there are a lot of like minded individuals out there. Perhaps some of them might work for you, AAMP. You better take that into consideration because if I have my way the paramedics are going to get the notion that we’re not just a bunch of contemptible morons and we’re soon going to take control of our own profession. On that day, managers like you will be obsolete. Perhaps you can get a job managing nurses.
Here is my personal ‘thumbs down’ for the graffiti against my profession that you had someone slather on your shiny new truck, AAMP. My advice? Take it off and reconsider your staffing patterns. What you’re doing is bad for my profession. It affects me negatively, it affects my profession negatively, and it shall not go unanswered.
What do you think?
Be sure to check out the follow-up to this post “A Slap in the Face? How about a Wake-Up Call?”
Also, for more of my thoughts on the state of EMS in the State of Illinois, check out “Dear Illinois EMS”