Spoiler alert: There are a LOT of French jokes in this one. A LOT of them. You’ve been warned.
This should come as relief to those of you that are tired of measuring your suction catheters in “freedoms” instead of in French. While I was researching the French model of EMS delivery for the post I wrote last week (Hypocritically Speaking – My opinions about EMS models and philosophies) I stumbled across something in the Wikipedia article that made me want to raise a baguette in solidarity to our cheese-eating friends. You might just agree.
It is of note that the French model of EMS delivery involves physicians in all levels of the system. Unlike the American model, where physicians provide oversight and only rarely respond to scenes, in France physicians are included everywhere from taking calls in the dispatch center to actively responding to scenes and taking care of patients. Their system is different than ours in many ways other than this, but the physician thing is pretty big. I’d always guessed that a system like that could only exist in the realm of near-total government funding, considering they’ve surrendered to the idea of socialized medicine over there. (Hey now, that was a French joke, not an American political statement. Cool your fondue)
But then, in the Wikipedia article, I read this:
“The situation is further complicated by the fact that the physicians staffing the SMUR units are among the lowest-paid in Europe. Although salaries have recently improved somewhat, in 2002 it was reported that these physicians, who are, for the most part, full-time employees of public hospitals, had a starting salary of only €1300 (£833; $1278) per month. This economic reality has resulted in understandably high turnover and some difficulty in staffing positions. It has been suggested, however, that the recognition of emergency medicine as an in-hospital specialty in France and elsewhere in Europe is likely to result in the evolution of that system towards more comprehensive in-hospital emergency services.”
Garcon! Bring me my beret and your finest, cheapest cabernet sauvignon! It turns out that the low pay, little respect, and feeling that “once we’re viewed as a specialty the conditions will improve” isn’t limited to just this side of the Atlantic. Maybe if we’re both underpaid for taking care of sick people we might have other things in common. Maybe they can learn to like our cheap, watered-down beer and we can learn to like their stinky cheeses. Maybe there’s a common theme to EMS around the world that binds us all together. Maybe, just maybe, I can start calling my burn patients “French toast” and they can call their obese heart attack victims an “American Special”.
Or maybe not…
C’est la Vie, eh?