The thing about wearing a uniform – it really changes your behaviour.
I’m guessing that a lot of you are aware of the Milgram experiment, where members of the public more willingly follow instructions if the instruction giver is wearing a uniform or other symbol of authority (follow the link for a more complete explanation – if you’ve never heard of this experiment, it and the Stamford experiment, make scary reading).
So when I am wearing my uniform I am more confident and can ‘order’ people around. The police, firefighters and members of the public tend to do what I tell them if there is someone sick around. Obviously I only use these powers for the force of good, but without my uniform I am a much more shy person.
I noticed this when I went to the Open Rights Group meeting. When I arrived I knew one person there, and once I’d stopped talking to her I became an instant wall-flower. It’s something that I need to change and change pretty quickly.
But there is a flip-side to wearing an ambulance uniform, you also become more passive.
If I were in the street and some drunk tried to hit me – I’d punch them on the nose. If I were verbally abused – I’d soon be ‘in their face’ shouting and ranting along with the best of them.
Yes, I know one paragraph ago I said I was a wall-flower – but this is in a social situation, when my temper is raised it is a terrible thing to behold.
But with the uniform I’ll gently restrain the drunk trying to hit me and I’ll ignore any verbal abuse that is thrown at me. Unfortunately the anger that I feel is then turned inward, which I am guessing is not a healthy thing to do.
I wonder if it is the uniform, or the risk of having a complaint put in about me that turns me into such a wimp. It might just be that I spend so much time trying to keep patients calm, that I’m feeling very mellow when people abuse me.
Tomorrow I’ll explain why I started thinking about the way I take abuse without defending myself…