For the last year I have worked primarily in a rapid response vehicle or “fly car.” There are many benefits to such a position.
- I do almost exclusively 911 calls.
- I self dispatch based on calls I hear over the fire and EMS radios.
- I am often the first on scene.
- My day is never boring
- Because I have direct relief, I am never held late.
There are some drawbacks:
- I don’t get the mental breaks I do when working with a partner. Whether driving nonpriority to the hospital or sitting in the EMS room waiting for a partner to finish a run form, or on post, being able to close my eyes and take a cat nap or get out of the ambulance and shoot baskets at a neighborhood court, knowing that my partner is listening to the radio lets me relax. I also like being able to eat while my partner drives. Yesterday in the fly car, I got a slice of pizza from the hospital EMS room, but never got to eat it. At the end of the day, it was still sitting next to me in the passenger seat, cold and no longer unappetizing.
- I am not as strong as I was working on the ambulance. Occasionally now, i will do the bottom of the stair chair or lift the stretcher in and out of the ambulance to help out the crew I am intercepting with, but not doing it all shift long, when I do do it, I feel weak. My stretcher calluses are not as tough as they used to be.
- While I am never held late, sometimes at the base at the end of the night, particularly if I have been hit with a number of calls late, I can be behind on my paperwork. One night I punched out three hours late, But for the most part, I try to stay up with the paperwork and I do mostly get out on time.
- I am truly exhausted at the end of the day. The mental strain of 15-16 911 lights and sirens responses through traffic, and always having to listen to the radio and respond when a medic is called for is hard, But I think would probably rather have that than the strain of dealing with dispatchers and the helpless feeling like you are just a ball in a pinball machine, part of a video game being controlled by someone else.
- Most of all, I miss the camaraderie of a partner. For all the years I have worked in EMS, the very best part of the job is having a good partner, someone who becomes like family to you. I find being in a fly car to be quite lonely. There are days when I would gladly do transfers all day with a partner who makes me laugh than do exclusively 911s.
When I see people who are out of street EMS and they all say how much they miss it and how those were often the best times of their lives, they are n’t talking about the calls; they are talking about the camaraderie, their old partners, about laughing, and bitching and story-telling, about being a part of a unique group of people, at a unique point in time.
In 2005, I wrote a post called Old Partners about working a shift with one of my old partners. Here is an excerpt:
“We do six calls. It’s hard to even remember what they are. After a while the job sometimes doesn’t even become about the calls. It is about the people you work with, driving the streets, the things you eat, what you talk about.”
As I get closer and closer to the end of my ems career, while I will miss the medicine and the calls, I already miss the camaraderie of having a regular partner, someone who you will get up before dawn to go to work with even when you are feeling crappy, even when you say you hate the work. You don’t want to let your partner down just as they don’t want to let you down. When your partner is punching in, after they warned you they might not make it to work because they were feeling so bad or had some emergency they might need to attend to, you know now that they are there and that no matter what happens, the day will be okay because they are there. That is the true heart of EMS.