Often times during my interactions with current and former students the inevitable phrase comes up while we are discussing protocols, interventions and the job itself. I’ll have an EMT say to me, ‘yes, that’s all fine, but out there in the real world, I am just an EMT’. Meaning, Fire and Medics are in charge and in many jurisdictions the EMT is relegated to ‘stretcher duty’ on most calls.
In LA County, one particular Ambulance Company, a large one that responds with Fire to the scene of all calls. The EMT’s on those Ambulances tend to be relegated to the dreaded stretcher-duty while fire does the cool work. The Ambulance crew just doesn’t seem to get an opportunity to use their skills and know-how at all on many if not all calls.
I have had more than a few former students work at this company, only to leave shortly thereafter due to the lack of authority to act on scene. Good EMTs and good people that knew what to do and how to perform were not given the chance to prove themselves by the other responding departments.
The Same Held True Before
Thinking back to a number of years ago, while I was an EMT-B in Michigan. we had a station that was set up to respond with a local fire department. It was the same thing as I mentioned above, we were in essence stretcher-bearers for the fire rescue department.
After some time, I was able to see the firefighters’, their skills, motivation, and abilities. They were no greater than us and in many cases, less skillful than we were. Many times their comfort and caring were weak at best. They wanted to fight fires not do medical calls. While this is not always true of all departments, in this particular time in my career, care was problematic at best.
I made it a point going forward to talk to these firemen and become friends with them; to let them know we were smart and that I didn’t want to just push a stretcher for the rest of my life. I told them that we also needed skills practice in the field and that if we did most of the stuff on these calls, they would be free to stand and watch and be ready for the next actual fire call. And of course, they loved the plan!
Going forward, my partner and I became the “go-to guys” on these calls when we were stationed with the fire department. One of my last shifts, we were asked to park our rig at their station instead of across the street. They liked that we wanted to help and be a part of the team. They accepted us into their world.
One of the things we did to endear ourselves to them was play football outside the rig while waiting to be toned out. We did this often and eventually other rigs and EMTS would locate us and come and play football with us.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you are just a stretcher-bearer, keep in mind that in many cases it is YOU who is to partially to blame. Get out there, talk to them, tell them you want to play, show initiative, and that you want to be a part of the team. If you stand at the door and don’t say anything, they will assume you don’t want to be a part of it and that you don’t know anything. You know how to be an EMT, now prove it!