It’s frustrating beyond all reason to run up to a house at 2 AM just to find three stable adults, one marginally sick adult patient, four functional cars in the drive way, and yet they want you to take the patient into the Emergency Department. You can’t say no, you try to put on a smile, but you know the charge nurse is going to glare at you for bringing such a patient in. They’ll probably sit in triage and the moment they realize it it’ll be your fault. You wait at registration wishing the triage nurse would stop playing minesweeper and just transfer patient care as you simultaneously consider how burned out you really are.
Welcome to the night shift.
I don’t know what it is about night shift but I have a love-hate affair with it. On the other hand I hate the day shift as well. If there was a nice shift where the word “emergency” actually meant what the dictionary defines it as I’d want to be there. Unfortunately such a shift doesn’t exist and night shift offers some reprieve. As I see it the evening is busy but by midnight usually people are asleep. They’re too tired to realize that they have problems. Usually the only real problems come from those actually in emergent situations. This isn’t true for every call but generally you can hope for some time to sleep between 1-3.
Do you really need an ambulance?
The biggest shocker for me as an EMT is that so many people have no idea what an emergency is. A emergency to society is whatever fits into their narrative. Got up to take a piss and stubbed your toe? Emergency. Accidentally cut yourself shaving? Emergency. Sick with the cold, flu, or just plain drunk? Emergency. All of these are real situations but they are not emergencies and not worth an Ambulance ride. How do you get that across to patients? I can’t figure it out but I can see why the burn out and turn over rate in EMS is so damn high. In some of these cases you’ll literally find them at the door with their bags packed and coat on.
Can’t Drive? Taxis, Uuber, Lyft, Oh my!
I can’t think of a legitimate reason in this day and age to call 911 for a non-emergency. Not in a world with taxi cabs and services like Uuber and Lyft that are on demand and ready to go 24/7. Furthermore these services are cheaper than an ambulance ride. They’ll get you there just as quickly and you’ll end up in the same place; the waiting room. An ambulance is not a magical pass into the E.D. and we put patients where the charge nurse says. Now if you don’t know if your “emergency” is really emergent go ahead and call but have the common decency to say “ok, well I’m going to refuse care/transport, and call a cab”. I might be tired but a patient refusal for a non-emergency is easier than taking you in for the flu; where all I can do is talk to you and watch your vitals tick on the monitor – that’s it!
It probably won’t ever get better though.
Have you heard? Self driving cars will be a thing in the next decade. Do you think this will eventually phase out? I doubt it. People are always going to be too lazy to do something themselves. Here’s hoping to the future!
Found an interesting article for further reading on why people are so damn burned out and the result: NY City’s EMTs, paramedics face burnout in intense, high stress job for low pay.