Sunday, March 6, 2011


I just got home from attending EMS Today, where I had a fabulous time, learned a lot, and met some great people. Most of them EMS bloggers.
I've had a blog for a while. It didn't start out as an EMS blog, but it sort of morphed into one. And apparently, unbeknownst to me, some people out there actually read it once in a while. Who knew?

I had a great conversation last night with Maddog, who convinced me of a few things.

  1. I should write more. (We made a deal, buddy!)
  2. I should figure out what I really want to say, what my role in all this is. My perspective.
  3. In order to do that, I should start a new blog. An actual EMS blog.
So on the drive home, I thought about it, and things became more clear than they had been before.

I am in a somewhat different situation than most of the EMS Bloggers, at least the ones I read, and the ones I've met.

For one thing, I'm a volunteer. I hope to work for a nearby wonderful ambulance company at some point, but for now, I'm waiting until my youngest gets a little older. I know myself. I'll want to work crazy hours, and I don't want to do that just yet. I am financially able to postpone it, so that's where I am with it at the moment. I'll confess the occasional yearning for more- more calls, more experience, more training, more hours, but so far, I've been able to resist.

In addition to being volunteer, rather than paid, I'm in a small, non-transporting, fire department in pretty much the middle of nowhere. We don't get a lot of calls. More about this later.

In this fire department, to put it bluntly and mildly, myself and my family are treated very poorly. There is a story behind this, but the short version is that we are being discriminated against because of the behavior of another person, who is hated primarily because he asked too many questions, and complained about various safety and legal violations. He filed a PESH complaint, and all hell broke loose. More about this later, too.

Two of my kids (yes, I am in the unusual situation of doing this with my kids!) and I are often the only responders. Especially during the day, and during the night. Evenings and weekends we might get some others. You would think our coverage of calls would have some value, if only because everyone else doesn't have to get out of bed in the middle of the night. Apparently not.

In addition to being "treated poorly," we are not provided with EMS training. At all. We have, in fact, been officially reprimanded for "training without permission." We have been told we are not allowed to use the equipment to train on. Again, more about this later.

Currently, I am the highest trained EMT in the department. This is a very sad state of affairs, because I have next to no experience. I became an EMT-B in January of 2008, and an EMT-I in February of 2010.

My son's certification expired a couple of months ago, for a variety of reasons. He still attends calls (and drives the Rescue), but is not an EMT. My daughter is about to start the Basic class in a couple of weeks. She has been riding with us on the Rescue for a year and a half, soaking up knowledge like a sponge, and being extremely helpful in many ways.
We technically, on paper, have six EMT-Bs.
But of the six, four don't live in the district, and do not EVER attend calls.
One has attended maybe two dozen calls in two and a half years. She is starting to come to more calls now, in the past couple of months, but has very little experience or recent training, and has done very little direct patient care. (See above about training.)
One is brand new, both to the area, and to being an EMT, and is just starting to come to calls. I am very grateful to her. Most of the time, she and I are the only EMTs who respond to calls, if she is able to be there. Otherwise, it's... me. Hence the "lonely EMT" name. Would have made it the "Lone EMT," like the Lone Ranger, but it isn't always just me.

Fortunately for us, we have excellent automatic ALS coverage from the ambulance company down the way. The one I want to work for. If it wasn't for them, I don't even want to think about what would happen out here. For half the town, they are relatively close, and have a great response time. Sometimes they beat us to calls. But on the far side, there can be an ALS response time of upwards of 20 minutes and they have occasionally been delayed longer.

We have no trauma center in this county. Although we are a non-transporting agency, we still have to consider how long the transport time will be, as a guide to what we need to get done, or at least started. Once ALS is on scene, we want the patient to be ready to go. The nearest hospital is about 20-25 minutes away cold, and maybe 15-18 hot. Really hot. The nearest trauma centers are about 40 minutes in one direction, or an hour and fifteen in the other. We do not have a local helicopter service, but can get one to come here as long as they are flying and available. It can be 12-18 minutes to get them here. Sometimes a little longer. Depends on which one, and where they are flying out of.

The short version is that transport time is long. However it happens.

We do NOT have the problem many places have, of people calling ambulances when they don't need them. Apart from the occasional cat walking on a medical alarm, our problem lies in the other direction- people who wait too long to call. We do have a few chronically ill patients we have the opportunity to get to know. And the very occasional drink chick walking down the side of the road. We've never been able to figure that one out. Where on earth are they walking FROM, let alone TO?

There are many many details I could write about the situation here, but apart from this basic orientation, I do not intend to dwell on all the crap. I could, without a doubt, but there isn't a lot of point to doing that. I want to give you a basic understanding of what I'm up against, so you understand where I'm coming from, and how frustrated and desperate I am at times. But mostly, I want to explore ways to make it better. If not for me, personally, for the quality of EMS care in my community. It's pretty important to me.

So here is a short list of what I intend to do.

1. Share some views of what it is like being an EMT in a small, volunteer fire department in the middle of nowhere. It can be frustrating, or funny, or incredibly rewarding- and everywhere in between.
2. Share some of what I am doing to find support for my efforts.
3. Explore some ideas for educating myself and our motley crew.
4. Explore the various ways in which social media makes my life easier, more satisfying and more productive. Contrary to the popular belief of social media being a big time-sink, for me, here, in this, it is a veritable lifeline.

A short disclaimer:
Everything here represents my own personal opinion, and not that of anyone else in my fire department, or the department or fire district.
I will not violate HIPAA. Any identifying information will be changed, including, but not limited to, names, gender, age, location and date. There will be times when I will need to be very vague, if/when the situation would be too easy to identify even with key information changed, since this is a small town.

Although I do not have my real name overtly associated with my blogs, it is not difficult to figure out who I am, and therefore, where I am. I am a pretty unique individual, and therefore am easily identifiable. This means that people will probably be able to identify what department I am in, if they care to, and therefore, who else is in that department. I am not going to name names, but I am going to tell the truth. If some of what I say is not flattering to the department or to certain individuals, there isn't a lot I can do about that. It is what it is. Although I have been accused of "badmouthing" the department, or the fire service itself (Those volunteers are heroes! How dare you...?), my intention is to improve the quality of service to the public, who do not know the truth of the situation, and have no other way to know the truth, for a variety of reasons.

I am aware that I will probably catch a lot of shit for this blog, if word gets around. There isn't anything I can do about that- and they can't treat me worse than they already do. They are not active online, so I may have a little time before I need to really worry about it. If they find this, and get pissed, and decide to kick me out, I'd like to hear their explanation to the public for pretty much everything, from how we are treated, to their justification for depriving the town of the only reliable coverage it really has. Might make an interesting news story some day.

Enough of an "introduction."
I'll go write a real post.


  1. Go for it, girl. That same conversation reminded me I need to get back to mine. Your perspective as a volunteer is important! Write on!