Saturday, May 31, 2008

- A little pimpage

I don't do this sort of thing often but just wanted to pimp out my roommates' band STEWART STREET. Go by the myspace spot and give 'em a listen. They even wrote up a song about the struggles of Ole MedicMarch - it's called Better Now. Give em a listen!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

- Attitude

I had had a cough for the most of the week, and while lifting a patient into the unit, I started coughing again. I felt something pull pretty good in my upper back, on the right side, and when the pain didn't go away immediately; I called the Supervisor and told him I needed to be replaced.

They sent me home, and I went to the doctor's office where I peed in a cup and was told I had a thoracic strain - no heavy duty lifting for a week, heavy being anything more than 10 pounds. I advised everyone up the chain about my restrictions. "Well," they said, "maybe we can find something here for you to do that's light duty." They haven't let me know anything yet, despite my repeated attempts to contact them, so today I stayed home. I've also come down with some sort of intestinal virus, which has been not fun so far.

Earlier in the week, I was relieved to receive a phone call from the office. Maybe they had come up with something for me to do! I stepped into the main office to find one of the Veeps sitting there. He is a small man, and he has a moustache the twitched like mouse whiskers. I have trouble lifting my eyes from them to meet his gaze.

"Hey, MM. How are you doing? I heard you got hurt. Tell me what happened."

I give him the rundown. He steeples his fingers and appears to listen, and his mouse-stache twitches only once or twice when one of the other medics walks by with some Burger King. But when I finish, he looks up at me.

"Oh, ok. Well, I just wanted to make sure of what happened. You're going to be out for a week?"

"Light duty, for a week," I nod. The whiskers twitch.

"OK. So, if you start feeling better, I need you to head down to the clinic. Tell them about the workers comp case and let them know what's going on with you, that you're feeling better, and they should release you to come back. That way we can get you back in."

I get the sinking feeling he did not listen, really, to anything I said, except for the part where I'm out for a week. But then I realize what really happened - he's trying to find out if there was something I screwed up on, that they could pin on me. Paranoia? Probably, but this would be more par for the course for someone from upper management deigning to grace me with their presence.

He looks at me, smiles an empty, watery smile, shakes my hand. I can look through his eyes and see the gears spinning in his head. Then his whiskers twitch again, his eyes light up, and he walks into the next room. A few seconds later, someone walks in carrying a big cake.

He left me sitting there. Maybe it's do to my recent low morale, as evidenced by my last post, but I felt more than ever like I was just a number to this company. Profit X will be affected by MedicMarch not being able to come in, so let's fix that problem.Well ya know what? Profit X will also be affected by MedicMarch if he permanently injures himself and has to go on permanent light duty. Asking me to come in early from a back injury is short sighted - yeah, I may be back on my truck again for a couple of weeks, but if I get hurt, you'll have to fill the spot again.

This injury was preventable as well. We were in someone else's unit, not ours, because they do not have enough spare units to cover when one of the contract units breaks down in an outlying area. The truck we were in was broken down too (but not enough to render it unusable, apparently) in that the air ride would not drop. This is not that big of a deal but lifting that extra bit of height contributed to me hurting myself. Also, my truck, even though it is a full time truck, does not have a power stretcher, even though the area I work in makes 1/3 of the division’s profits, the largest by any area in my division. The next closest area makes 28-30 percent. They have several spare units in their area, and all units are equipped with brand new power stretchers. They also all have new ALS bags that sit better on you shoulders and don't pull you to one side. Most of the units are widebodies with extra room in the back, and with new modules with decent lighting.

They told us this year we didn't do so well with our corporate stock, that we only had a 2 percent increase. I tell you, I would much prefer to have new equipment on the truck and only have a 1 or .5 percent increase. I don't see much of the stock money at the end of the day. I don't really have much motivation to keep lining the pockets of the corporate higher ups when we get smashed into the ground every day.

And I know they didn't use to have power stretchers in the old days. They used to have more back injuries, though. It bothers me that we have a soloution now to a problem but it's not getting used. It's like having someone in V-Tach but not shocking them! I'm too young to pop a handful of Ibuprofen every day just to make it through. More and more it looks like I'm going to jump the career tracks. I can't slave away for the next 40 years on a unit, and I'm not selling my soul to go into a support department or dispatch.

I guess that toasty smell is all the burnout inside.

This place is turning into Office Space for me - I have 8 bosses: four field supervisors, a station supervisor, a paperwork supervisor, an operations supervisor, and my Mouse Boss veep. And 6 of them (the original field supervisor I reported the incident to and my station supervisor) have called me to find out if I was "feeling better". I think the only reason the other two haven't called yet is because they haven't been exposed to the dark side of the force yet - neither of them have been in supervisory roles for more than 6 months. I've got TPS reports, too - the company paperwork scores I mentioned in my last post. Guess who calls me when something is out of whack - all of them.

And I guess what I would've liked to have heard from the Mouse Boss was something more like this:"Hey MM, look, man, sorry you got hurt. Let's talk about what happened and see if there's room for us to change the way we do things to make it safer. Tell us if we can help you with something. Also, if you feel like you can handle it, go ahead and get checked out by the doctor again, and if it's ok with them AND you, we can get you back on a unit. "

One thing I want to point out is where I want him to say "to make it safer." It seems to me like most of the changes we get have a motivating focus of "to make more money". The way he asked me the first time had the air of trying to find out if I had been negligent. It felt like I was getting blame pinned on me. Now granted, this is just my perception, but dammit, that's what it feels like.

Way back when - when I was just March, not MedicMarch, I was discussing going into the EMT class at the local college with a paramedic who worked for the company. She was a friend of my mom's and we were out at the lake, rasising hell, drinking. We had a small dip in the conversation and she said "Yeah, you got to watch for the Company, though. They chewed me up, spit me out. It started off good, but in the end, I was just Meat in the Seat." This lady didn't know who I was, where I was from, where I was going to school at, or anything. She told me that, unsolicited, after I stated that I might deicide to go to Basic school.

Not that everything is all bad. One shining point this week was AD contacting me by company email to inform me that he had been assimilated into the hive min...Uh, I mean, hired for my company. Welcome to the Club, Big Guy! Your purple robes are here, and if you give me your shoe size, I can get you some white Nikes. And tell me something else - how do you feel about kool-aid?



Sunday, May 18, 2008

-The Interesting Art of Career Suicide

This post was not the original I planned on posting. I was going to comment on my somewhat childish penchant for what I refer to as "Le Sabotages" in my head. Lately this has consisted of me, while at a red light, stealthily opening the window the back of the ambulance, turning the fans in front on 'high', and passing all the gas I can muster before the light turns green. I then stealthily close the window, and then put on my concerned, good partner face when Red tells me she can't figure out why all of her patients smell like they're coming back from the 24 Hour All Bean Buffet.

That's what I was going to post on.

But instead Ambulance Driver's column at caught me eye and got the old gears turning. I want you guys to head over there can read the damn thing. Don't just skim it. I'll wait.

While I can't comment (except some light snark) on Le Drama ala Fire and EMS, I can comment on something I have had some experience with - his mention of for profit ambulance service, like AMR and Rural Metro.

Have you ever heard the saying "The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions?"

Yeah, I know after that it's hard for me to convince you I can look at this at an objective point of view, and maybe I can't, but god dammit, I'm making the effort. It's really not that bad working for one of these companies, as long as I keep my thoughts locked in a box all day.

Companies like this, I feel, mostly started out as concerned efforts by community minded citizens that were concerned with their neighbors as much as they were with profit. But once they got their services up and running, the Companies, like any good capitalists should, began to look for ways to improve profit. My company is very fond of mentioning to us that if each unit got one less refusal per week, it would make a one or two million dollar impact in our bottom line. This money, they are then very quick to remind me, would then be available for things that us day laborers might like - raises, new equipment, and things of that ilk.

Well, one might say, that makes 'cents' (oh, MM, you so punny!). Why not motivate your workers to that end? It seems like a win win for everyone.

The thing is, I don't get refusals for funsies. I get them when I and the patient agree that said patient doesn't need to go to the hospital in the ambulance.

"Well, we understand that," says Company. "But how can you be sure that something isn't wrong with that patient, and the doctors could find it if you took the patient to a Hospital? (Hospital is always said with a near mythical quality- to get the same ring at home, I recommend you repeating 'hospital' to yourself in a reverent and hushed tone while making jazz hands). Besides, MM, you're not a doctor, LOLZ!"

That is correct companies, I am not a doctor. Very astute observation....although....Dr Medic March does have a wonderful lilt to it.

No, I am not a doctor. I am a medic. But I am a medic that you have trained to be able to assess for injuries and to look for the whole picture of this patient's emergency. I do not think this patient needs to go to the hospital. The patient agrees and is willing to sign away any right to legal recourse.

"But MM, our company survives on its profits LOLZ!"

And there is my sticking point. The line about finding something wrong with the patient I might have missed is just cover for that.

Somewhere along the line, patients became only cosmetic - all it seems we care about, sometimes, is that 3 inch by 8 inch flap of leather in the patient's back pocket.

My company introduced a way to track us though stats, telling us it would help develop us as medics and give us feedback about our performance-funny thing is, the categories are things like how many refusals we get, how often we make billing mistakes. There are about nine different categories and only one of them has anything to do with actual patient care - our time on scene with extremely sick/injured patients. The rest, variously, all have to do with how fast our reports get processed and whether we have collected insurance information.

If this was the end of the line, fine. But now, during raise time, the numbers come back out, and low and behold, some people didn't get a raise they deserved because of an arbitrary set of numbers a bean counter out back who's never had ANY Field experience decides we can squeeze a bit more money out of the system.

I wish, I wish, I wish, I could make my company put patient care and their medics in front of the profits.

Remember earlier, when they said the money we would make could be used for raises? In the two years of having this system, the only raise we've gotten was on to bring us to the minimums of industry standards and to comply with federal minimum wage law.

Oh, and the reason I've titled this entry "The Interesting Art of Career Suicide"? The employees at my company are not allowed to have any sort of online profile, blog, or entry that says anything about the company.

Basically, if they trace this back to me, I'm a done tom turkey.

But to me, it's worth saying and getting out, and letting the consequences fall where they may. I'm not going to compromise myself anymore for something I shouldn't have to compromise myself about in the first place.

I'll expand on this latter. I'd love to hear what you guys have to say.