For over twenty-five years I was a full time street medic. I have been part-time now for only a few months. I have tried to work at least 20 hours a week, but there have been a couple of weeks when I have only worked once, and one week where I did not work at all.
I sit at my desk at the hospital and watch the crews come in and listen to their stories, and i feel like a desk-jockey fan boy wishing i was still out there. Tell me again about that call…
When I was full time I always worked at least three twelve hour shifts in a row so my weeks balanced between being a paramedic and then living a regular life.
Now that the regular life is a much larger portion of my time, I am finding two things. I don’t look forward to going to work as much as i did and when I do, I am nervous.
This isn’t to say that I still don’t enjoy the work, and don’t for most part, still feel comfortable in the position. It is just that I feel unbalanced.
Not having to get up at 4;30 in the morning is great. Being always free to take my daughter to her sports practices and games is very special. Getting more time to exercise is life-saving..
But when I am back on the street, I feel like a second string guard being put in to play for a few minutes while the starters get a rest, then I am back on the bench, never having really gotten into the flow. Maybe I scored a bucket or two or had an assist, but I am not the starter. I think back to when ten years ago, I worked six days a week, and working as a paramedic was as smooth for me as breathing. It was my world.
Now sometimes after a long busy shift, I start to feel back in the groove but then I am punching out, and several days later when I punch back in, I feel like a newbie again.
I do good calls and I want to work more. Schedulers who are always trying to grab people for extra shifts (The COVID slowdown has ended) would do well to post themselves in hospital EMS rooms after big trauma calls or STEMIs. You want to work an extra shift? Hell yeah! Sign me up!
Sometimes, even after the end of the busy shift when I have done calls that I felt mattered, I will take a look at the open shifts. I’m a paramedic. This is where I belong. This is what I do.
I look at my schedule now and say, yes, I’ll take that, no, wait a minute, I have a meeting at the hospital that day or yes, I can, no, wait, my daughter has basketball practice, sorry, not available.
I do feel more rounded in my life and healthier, but I don’t think I’ll ever be fully comfortable as a part-time medic.
The firefighters are always asking when am I going to retire. I tell them I will when my daughter graduates college. Looking at 2030, I’ll be 71. I hope I can make it that long. Not sure I’ll be able to.
I worry that as hard as going part-time has been, retiring completely will likely be even worse. I’ll sit in my rocking chair and when I hear the sirens in the distance, I will have to turn my hearing aide down to keep the pangs of loss from being too great. If I am ever in a nursing home (please put a bullet in my head), how will I feel watching the crews wheel past my open door? Will I wheel myself out into the hall and race after them? Or will I take a pillow and try to suffocate myself to spare myself any further torture of the sad knowledge that life that has passed me by? When the paramedics come through the door for me, I hope I am long gone.
Followers of the legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman leave joints and guitar picks on their graves. Anyone looking to track my final resting place down, please don’t put a toy ambulance on my site. The joint will probably be okay, because I imagine that later in life after my children have grown and moved away, I will have a medical marijuana card by then to ease my chronic pain and depression. Wait! Actually I do not wish to be buried in the cold cold ground. Cremate me instead. Spread my ashes in the places I have loved. Fenway Park, the Atlantic Ocean, and yes, the city streets of Hartford.