Monday, December 28, 2009

Colder Times

I've been in a bit of a ditch here for a while now. I have come to a crossroads in my life, and I'm not liking the options laying before me.

One road, is my EMS career. The other is my family.

Work has been slow lately. I've not been able to pick up nearly as many days at the county EMS as I was at first. Orientation hours combined with just being Johnny-on-the-spot when they needed me has run out. They haven't scheduled me to work at all next month, which means my only days on a truck will be when somebody doesn't show up and they need a quick fix. Worse than that was the news I found out last night.

Big Red told me a while back that he was planning on leaving the county EMS and taking a job with the next county over. This meant more money for him, and a good shot at a job for me. I was a shoe-in for the position. I'm in town, I'm dedicated, and I work as hard as I can. But according to Boss Hoss, I'm not qualified for the position because my title ends in "B" and not "P." Only a paramedic will do to replace Big Red, even though they could spend well over a couple of months to find one. I tried reasoning with Boss Hoss, reminding him that I want to be a paramedic and planned to start classes as soon as I could find a full-time EMS job, as well as some other facts that I've already stated above, but he had his mind set.

The hospital job isn't faring much better. I'm working almost 20 hours a week there on average. But even that is declining. The work isn't bad, although I think it's too hectic for what they're paying me on the hour. Boss Bubbles, my supervisor up there, doesn't even have to lie to me about the possibility of full-time employment. I'm at the bottom of a very long totem pole. The people at the top have been there for years, and they have no plans of leaving.

Now the crossroads I mentioned earlier come into play. You see, the closest EMS jobs aside from county EMS are in the other counties. Two of those counties pay better than mine, but one has a college with a massive Fire/EMS school feeding it everything it wants, and the other requires you to be in peak physical condition with previous Fire and EMS training and work experience. Neither of which I am qualified for. The other surrounding counties don't pay nearly enough to merit the 45 min - 1 hour drive it takes to get there, and that goes for the big city with the private EMS jobs as well. Surrounding hospitals are the same way. Not only that, but the pay vs. hard work scale I mentioned for my current hospital would be worse in other places.

My crossroads are set before me. Do I choose to stay with EMS? It's the only career that I can say that I have truly loved. The work is selfless, the pay is dung, and the reward is only in the heart. But I LOVE it. I know that I could go for a few months or longer before I find the right place to work. In those few months, I could lose the only thing I love more: my family. They are the other choice. I couldn't ask my wife and son to stay with me while I go from poor to broke to worse. It's not fair to them. They've been through enough already while I pursued this adventure. My wife and I already know that the only way EMS could be financially rewarding is if I became a paramedic. Unfortunately, to get that money, you have to give that money. Almost $3,500+ that I don't have, and sitting without it for 2+ years while I take classes, stay up late, get up early, and never see home, all while going even further into debt because my regular work is suffering.

The choice I've made was a no-brainer, but it was so painful that it nearly brings me to tears every time I think about it. I looks like my time with EMS might be coming to a halt. Today, I plan to start the job search for something nearby that pays well and needs somebody full-time. My family needs me, and I need them.

I just don't see any other options...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Horse Needs Blanket

I decided to take a look back last night at the week I've had. It made me exhausted just thinking about it. 43 hours of the last 75 hours have been spent at work. With traveling and small incriments of downtime added in, I'm looking at nearly 60% of my time being spent at work since 0700 Wednesday! That's a staggering number.

It is true that a lot of people put in more hours than that in a shorter number of days on a regular basis, and it is also true that I have done it before myself. But when work has been thin as it has for me lately, that kind of running will make you click your heels and hang your head all at the same time. It also gets you when you were only figuring on working 14 hours that week...


I got snow on my boots this morning. Wasn't really expecting it either. I must say that a bit of the cold stuff is refreshing every now and then, but not when you're running a box through it at 0630 on a 20 minute trip to the county line. Especially when your patient decides they really don't want to go to the hospital.


An APB has been issued by Browncoat in the county: Be on the lookout for a 24 year old zombie female. She was last seen dead in the driver's seat of a 4-door sedan stratigically parked with the front end hugging a telephone pole and her head resting against a spider-web of cracked glass in the front windsheild. Of note, she is probably intoxicated and has a recently developed bald spot on the top of her head and has what appears to be bloody strawberry blond hair...

Funny story from last night. Right before midnight, my partner and I got a call for a single car MVA vs. telephone pole with a patient in the driver's seat who is unresponsive (our above-mentioned zombie). Halfway there, our dispatcher advises that upon return to the vehicle, the caller and first responders on scene are unable to locate the patient. How could this happen?

Apparently, when the patient came to, they realized that even though they were hurt that it might not look too good on them with the situation they were in. Apparently, two open beer bottles in the back seat, half a case of Natural Light in the trunk, false tags, and a stolen car don't look good on the person doing the driving. They decided to hoof it the rest of the way and save themselves some legal embarrassment. I'm betting wherever they are right now, if they're still alive (and it's questionable) they've got one hell of a headache and they've got a bit of a limp in their step...


A miniture vacation is in order for me. I believe I'll go visit a big city for the rest of the weekend. I think I'll hunt down a set of scrubs for the beginning of my adventures in the hospital and hope that they have brown ones pretty cheap. A good relaxing time is in the cards today.

Big Boss and Boss Hoss would be proud...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Life on the Edge of Space

Being at work for a laid back EMS service has it's advantages. One of the best ones being that I can write while at work...

All in all, life has been pretty slow for Ol' Browncoat lately. I logged in 48 hours of orientation with the company and had another 24 to go before I was due to be released to the streets on my own. All was going as planned until yesterday when a couple of employees already working here decided they weren't going to be able to make it in for the day. Big Boss found this out and started to fluster a bit. All he had in front of him was the guy assigned to show a new guy some of the ropes, and me.

"Browncoat, you've logged in 48 with us in orientation already haven't you?"

Yes sir, Boss.

"And you've worked for another company before, so you're no newbie to this work, are you?"

No sir, Boss.

"Congratulations! You've been cleared to work on a truck. Can you stay 'till at least 1900?"

I believe so, Boss.

And just like that, I'm all green lights for duty. In less than 24 hours, I've gained myself nearly 39 hours that I didn't plan to work but have no problems working, and I'm scheduled to pick up another 24 hours in the next week or so. Not only that, but Boss Hoss, the manager that trained me, has told me that he's looking to spend less time on the streets this month. This means I stand to collect a few more hours while he gets some office work done.

I've also found out through a friend, Big Red that works here, that he is looking into getting a full-time spot with a county just north of here. If he gets that and moves out of his full-time gig here, I stand to potentially gain a permanent place here in the county. This would be a nice slice of wonderful for the Browncoat EMT. When I find out more, I'll be sure to send a wave out to all those interested.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The First

The tone dropped.

"Dispatch to Station 5. Be advised we have a sixty year old male having a seizure out on really far county road."

"That's damn near the county line." He keyed up the radio, "EC-6 will be responding." Then he turned to me while throwing on his jacket, "Come on Browncoat, it's time you got your feet wet."

My feet wet? I've been doing this for over a year and a half. Aren't my feet wet enough by now? That's when I realize that I'm starting to think exactly like my old partner from the private service. I throw on my coat and take off out the door, then hop into my designated seat in the back of the truck.

Ride alongs are the worst. You've got to show them your pretty face and that you're not a complete boob if you want to get the job. I had the advantage over newbies because I already had experience with an ambulance service. Many others have the upper hand on me because they've worked with a public service, not a private.

We're rushing down the road now. I'm not used to curves like this where I normally work. Big cities don't have a lot of curves. Being in the back of the truck makes it worse. Focusing on what to do for a seizure patient is hard when you haven't eaten in a few hours and you're starting to get motion sickness. I can get worse though.

"EC-6, be advised the caller has stated the patient has stopped breathing and stopped responding. CPR will be in progress when you arrive."

"EC-6 is clear."

Oh great. I'm thankful to have a patient with urgent needs for once. Today has been full of transports and weak elderly ladies needing a ride to the ER. I just wish they could have waited until after dinner, or maybe until the next shift came on, or maybe just any day that I wasn't here. That's when it hit me, and it really only took a second or two, that I had never worked a full code and I wasn't sure if I was ready to work this one.

Just as quickly, I realized that this was it. I didn't have a choice any more. I had made the choice long before I stepped foot in that truck, or before I walked in the door that morning, or before I even took the job at the private company. A code could happen at any time. It had just been my luck (or bad luck) of the draw that I had not gotten one so far. I had to get my head straight and start focusing on the new task at hand: how to assist the two medics I was riding with in saving a life.

We finally got to the house. I wasn't sure on what part of the county we were in, but I knew it was pretty far out. It had taken long enough to get there. I could hear the screams from inside as soon as I opened the door. One medic had grabbed the monitor, one the Auto-Pulse, and I had the jump bag. They were way ahead of me. Winding through the garage and into the living room brought me a great deal of shock.

A man lay on the carpet, trying to die. He was overweight, in his late fifties or older, his shirt was raised up a bit probably from the compressions, and his skin was just not right. I've never seen skin colored like that. It was like somebody had removed the pink and tan colors, and replaced them with ash and blue. His eyes were open and fixed and he was staring at me, but I don't think he knew it. His tongue was parting his lips. His wife screamed his name behind us, but I couldn't tell you what she was saying.

What kept me moving, I will never know. That image could have frozen me for a lifetime. My preceptor was doing compressions, the other medic was setting up a BVM and bagging him. I starting piecing together the monitor. The pads weren't already attached and I felt dumb setting it up, but there was nothing else for me to do. I wasn't touching that Auto-Pulse. It was the one piece of equipment my preceptor knew I wasn't familiar with, and it was the one piece that we had decided we would "get to later." Later was happening sooner than either of us had predicted.

The medic with the BVM wanted to set up to defib and tube, so I took over airway. Immediately, I noticed the breaths weren't making it into the airway. It was that tongue. The tongue was blocking his airway. I had never threw an airway adjunct before either. First time for everything. I was surprised at how easily the OPA slid in. The other medic had attached the defib pads and my preceptor had the Auto-Pulse halfway ready. The monitor wanted us to shock.

"I'm clear. You're clear. We're all clear." I didn't know people actually said that exact phrase. The medic at the monitor hit the shock button and the man's arms flopped like he was lazily reaching for the ceiling.


That man didn't make it. Another crew arrived, the Auto-Pulse performed it's compressions, and we took a trip to the local ER. The ER Doc had him pronounced after being in there for less than 30 minutes. The medic who was with us didn't take it so well. He had gotten a pulse in the back of the truck on the way there. It was faint, it was irregular, and it didn't last, but he got it. It was his fifth code since he had become a medic just a few months ago.

I wanted to write this down. It's important to me to remember. We learn from our past experiences and the experiences of others. Although this didn't happen long ago, I could have written it at any time and it would still been as vivid in my mind.

I'll have to say that those medics I rode with that night certainly fit the bill for Big Damn Heroes. It doesn't matter whether you save the victim you're trying to help, what matters is that you try your best to save them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In the Saddle

As I mentioned before, I became the Browncoat for the purpose of speaking my mind without fear of retaliation and to protect the names of services I work for, people I work with, and myself. This move was partially influenced by a white shirt who felt what I was writing under my own name was too... racey for their service. Obviously, I didn't want to lose my job, so I made changes to what had already been said and stopped writing as much as I had been.

The funny thing was, it wasn't good enough. The private service I work for decided to let Ol' Browncoat go yesterday on suspension under a false and absurd accusation. That was the service's way of telling me, "We're going to fire you. There's nothing you can do about it. You can't defend yourself either. We just need three more days to push the papers through."

I'm not going to go into details about what the accusation was, because it's really not important. Suffice it to say that it was in regards to my level of patient care. This tickles me a bit. The one that sent me off had been watching me and my involvment with a group called EMS 2.0.

The whole goal of this organization is to constantly improve pre-hospital care by being knowledgable of every skill we train in, and then using that information to help us provide the best patient care possible. It strikes me as odd that a person doing the best they can to improve their skills and provide the best patient care possible would be let go for those same exact reasons. Of course, there are other cirmcumstances that played their part in the mess, but that is for another day.

Long of the short, Browncoat wasn't hung up to dry completely. He used a couple of references, dropped a couple of names, and landed himself two part-time jobs at the local hospital and with the county EMS service in the same day of being suspended.

Funny how that works, ain't it? I've managed to put a thorn in a purple bellie's paw and landed myself a great gig all at the same time.

Got to go for now. I've got to be at work in an hour!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Enter The Browncoat EMT

What is a Browncoat?

In the series "Firefly", Browncoats or "Independents" were named after the simple, brown dusters they wore as uniforms during the War of Independence. The simplicity of their gear was greatly due to the fact that technology and resources were scarce on the Outer Planets. Conversely, the Alliance's soldiers were called "Purple bellies", because of the purple-tinted body armor they wore on their chests.

This may sound a bit "geeky" to some, but to me it has a great deal of meaning. I used to go by a different name when I wrote about my experiences in EMS, but I ran into issues with censorship from my employer. They viewed my blog as a liability to their company and the people working there. They implied that if I were to continue, I would be reported to the state EMS Boards.

This became my "war" for independence. I felt that it was a mockery of sharing and education to not be able to write about what myself and so many others did in EMS. The purpose behind EMS blogging is to see what others do, how they do it, why they do it, reflect on ourselves, and apply that new information. It is about growing as EMS providers. Unfortunately, we are all being monitored and censored in some way, shape, or form. We are led to express ourselves minimally out of fear of what might be done to us by our employers and EMS governing bodies.

The stories and the truths; they must be shared somehow. If this is how it must be done, then so be it. There will be a day in the future when we can express our thoughts and share our ideas freely without fear of outrageous consequences.

Until that time, I remain the Browncoat EMT.

Let's go be Big Damn Heroes.