If, in moving through your life, you find yourself lost...go back to the last place where you knew who you were, and what you were doing, and start from there. Bernice Johnson Reagon.

05 April 2013

The View From Under The Bus


Over on Facebook, on the page Paramedics on Facebook, there is an entry by an old boss of mine, Chief Skip Kirkwood. Now, there are a few things that Chief Kirkwood and I disagree on, but there are a few we agree wholeheartedly on. And this is one of them.

Chief Kirkwood asks the question, basically, why do we in EMS suffer from a lack of camaraderie, brotherhood/sisterhood, sense of family, or whatever you want to call it?

Basically, it is this- Why do we as EMS providers seem to be so willing to throw our co-workers under the buss at the drop of a hat?

I’ve seen it. Someone makes a mistake or a call goes bad and the crap starts flying. I’ve seen careers and reputations hurt by it. Really good people suffering long term at the hands of other, for all practical purposes, good people. Why?

I wish I knew.

When I was serving in the United States Army, we had folks that struggled. Maybe they were not too good with push-ups, they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at two feet with an M-16, they had trouble starting IVs, or just had some problem with some task or another. Did we throw them under the bus? Did we initiate a blanket party as depicted in “Full Metal Jacket”?

No. Not just ‘no’, but ‘heck no’. We helped them. During my Army career I can remember running in the rain, doing push-ups in the rain, letting fellow medics practice IVs on my arms, studying flash cards of obscure military facts, along with dozens of my fellow soldiers and NCOs…whatever it took to help my fellow soldiers overcome their obstacles.

And guess what? Never once did we fail.

During my fire service career, we had folks who had a hard time pulling attack lines, getting into an SCBA in less than five minutes, crawling around in turn-outs and SCBA, trouble with friction loss calculations, setting up and climbing ladders…you name it. And me and my fellow firefighters did what needed to be done- we helped them out. To use the quote from “Apollo 13”- failure was not an option.

I see this phenomenon in military and fire service all of the time- people helping people. In the Army, we did not throw people under the bus. In the fire service, we did not throw people under the bus, either.

But EMS? You make a mistake, a call goes bad, or a call goes like you think it should not have gone, and word travels faster than you can say “uh oh”.

Now don’t misunderstand me. The military and fire service are full of Monday-morning-quarterbacks who will second guess what other people do. All you have to do is look on the internet at any one of the thousands of blogs and forums out there. But it is always ‘someone else’. It is not the co-workers or fellow soldiers/Marines/sailors/airmen of the person who slipped up or had a bad moment.

EMS people? For whatever reason we will cast you to the wolves. Handle a call in a way that goes south? What your chain-of-command does to you is nothing compared to what your co-workers will do. And what is worse is something that I have seen in EMS that is, well, unique- command staff members that will throw someone under the bus, as well. Those are the ones that will tell their subordinates about the trials and tribulations of a fellow subordinate.

So what is it about EMS that grows this behavior?