Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bad Day

A good friend of mine, also a Paramedic, commented to me the other day that he would "rather be pumping gas" than doing the job that he is doing. I feel his pain.

Frustration with this job tends to peak and trough from day to day. Though we work at different services, our feelings about where and what we do are often similar, and to be honest there are times that I too feel like I would rather be doing something as straightforward and bullshit-free as pumping gas. It is on the other side of the fence, but sometimes you have to admit: the grass is pretty green.

Gas pumpers know what to expect from their job each day. Get dressed in the uniform, come in to work, and you will be pumping gas to people who do not respect you and will treat you like garbage. So far, sounds fairly similar. The difference here is that as a gas pumper, you know and expect this reality. A gas pumper has no delusions that someone will recognize a job well done, that one tank is truly different from another, or if his disposition matters from day to day. The game plan is clear: this job is close to the bottom rung and there is no real hope of anyone believing otherwise.

Though it doesn't seem all that green over there, consider coming into work with higher expectations, but the same reality. Build up a job in your head so that you believe that it matters. Believe that hard work will pay off, that determination will lead to success and tangible benefit. ...An environment where excellence is placed on a pedestal because without excellence the job cannot properly be done. Put extra work into the job so that you believe you are capable of more than what is normally expected, present yourself as a professional deserving of respect and believe it.

...And then have someone spit in your face. Not actually spit in your face, although that has happened as well, but in a manner much more insidious. Crumple up your hard written run form. Toss your opinion to the side. Smirk when you look for a zebra, laugh when you think you may have found one. Look right through you as you as you attempt to give a report. Interrupt. Criticize harshly with incorrect information, and then carry on as if nothing happened when the truth is brought to light. Suggest that a protocol is a "guideline" when you bring up detail, and call it "protocol" when you bring up leniency. Punish good behavior and reward bad. Screw up your paycheck and expect you to suck it up with a smile. Call it a symptom of being "new" when you work hard, when you do things right. When you give a shit. Suggest that experience is a substitution for perseverance. Leave for you a mess in the ambulance, a pile of laziness and open sharps. Talk a big game about "patient care" and then behave like a police officer on scene. Listen without listening. Talk without listening. Care more about the blood than the mechanism, more about the glory than the truth. Put a premium on transfers and a damper on medicine. Believe that education does not matter. Insist that privilege be given and not earned. Hire an 18 year old with no experience to do the same job.

It is painful to look around and see people who used to be like me. People who were once excited with this job, who looked at it as if it were a branch of medicine and not a path to a paycheck. People who let the above paragraph become them. It would be unfair to say that everyone is like this, but I can write with absolute certainty that the percentage is far too high.

It is enough to suck a person in. Like a black hole of overwhelming gravity, the could-be realities of this work are hard to avoid as we spin around the edge from day to day.

I love this job. But I'm glad I'm getting the hell out.

9 comments:

RevMedic said...

Are you staying in the field? Going to another agency? I'd hate to lose you to apathy, much less ignorance!

fiznat said...

No no, just working on the medical school thing. I'll be around for a while yet...

Zac said...

Hey Fiznat - my pingbacks are broken so I gotta let you know manually. I posted a reply to this entry.

AlexD said...

Baby Medic,

As a Medic of 20 years, I really enjoyed your blog entry. "Bad Day" exemplifies the feeling of each and every Paramedic I have ever had a chance of working with. EMS will turn the kindest of souls into complete a**holes. The profession has a tendency to consume its young and betray those who are faithful to it. Bad backs, bad knees, chronic cough from diesel fuel and hearing loss from improperly placed sirens are among the wonderful things one can enjoy after 20 years.Keep writing, but keep looking for a way out. Great Post!

Alex D
http://theapocalypsepapers.blogspot.com

Ken said...

Hey dude, don't suppose you work in London eh? lol Dissapointing to see things are such a mirror image over the pond, doesn't bode well for newbies like myself. Excellent blog, I'll stick around.

Anonymous said...

ems is losing its appeal for me too. 2 mos. in to medic school. AHH!

NYC EMS said...

I loved this post...Im going to pass this one around.

MarianaBec said...

"I love this job. But I'm glad I'm getting the hell out."

Exactly what I feel. I couldn't have come up with truer words. Hope that when you leave, you find exactly what you're looking for. Good luck, future Doc.

Bryanne said...

Good post.