One Month

It's a weird game this ambulance lark, especially when you are looking to write about it. Even more so when a day without a blogpost seems to leave a hole in your heart as you feel that you are skiving off.

What makes it a weird game is that I start to run out of material, I then find myself wishing that someone will have a nice interesting injury or illness – that I'll have to go to them, and that this will be a blogpost that shines.

It's not just the writing mind you – we all get like it, we joined this job partly because it can be a bit exciting and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. We didn't join up to have 'walk on, walk off' patients all the time. We joined up because occasionally, just occasionally, we like to have a proper injury – a car crash, a fall from height, a stabbing or shooting.

Watch the ambulance crew after a 'decent job', they'll be standing outside the ambulance bay at the hospital chatting to their colleagues. They'll be animated, they'll be interested in their job but most of all they will have a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.

We know it's not like the TV (and it's no wonder the characters on those programmes have so many relationship problems, if we went to the sort of jobs they do on a daily basis we'd all be alcoholic depressives as well). We understand full well that most of our job, 80% at the last count, don't need an ambulance or hospital treatment. We know that we won't be dealing with serious calls all the time. We are pretty happy for that, our 'burn out' rate is pretty low.



In four weeks I have had no interesting jobs, no jobs where I had to think about the safety or condition of my patient. A month where everything that I have done has been by rote. I get to the patient – if they can't walk or they have chest pain then we wheel them to the ambulance otherwise it's Shanks' pony. I do a set of observations, they invariably turn up all normal. Occasionally I'll need to 'blue' someone into hospital because they are having an angina attack. We drop them off at the hospital and get ready to repeat.

For a whole month I haven't had a 'decent' job. Just once in a while I'd like to think out a problem, stop some serious bleeding or give a treatment to someone. I've not even had someone having a heart attack.

It's tiring sometimes, the grind of going to people who aren't really ill all day, every day.

I have dark and horrible thoughts sometimes. If it rains after a period of heat I know that the roads are going to be slippery – perhaps there will be a car crash? It's a Friday night – maybe someone will get stabbed? The security level is critical – maybe someone will do something more scary than burn a jeep?

It worries me that I think like this, it worries me that I'm happy when people injure themselves. I know I'm not alone, I know that the other services also like a good 'shout', but it still seems wrong to want people hurt so I can test myself, so I can have an 'interesting' day.

I think that the danger we face is to stop looking at people as 'people', we look at them as the 'man flu', the 'belly ache' the 'splinter in his finger'. We see them as 'jobs'. When you start to dehumanise people like that it's only a short step to wanting some of them seriously hurt for your own entertainment.

Maybe it's just a funk that I'm in; I don't want people hurt, but I do want something interesting at work that will stretch my skills. And will give me something interesting to write about.

But that way lies psychopathy.

I am not mad.

Just bored.

Right now I'm thinking about an idea for a TV series – an ambulance worker who sets up increasingly bizarre 'accidents' in order to sate his desire to actually use the skills that he has.

39 thoughts on “One Month”

  1. …and aren't we hearing that some of the people connected with the London car bombs are doctors? Fanatic terrorists, or just really, REALLY bored – the mind boggles!

  2. I think alot of people feel guilty for these kinds of thoughts, but logically I'm not sure you should be.I mostly work in hospitals. Some people in hospitals are extremely ill, a very few are going to arrest. Lots of these incidents could be prevented, and I work hard to try and do that, but for some patients it's unavoidable. I don't want them to be so ill, but they are – it's just a fact of life.

    Emergency care is what I'm good at. It's what I like. People are going to be ill whether I want them to be or not, but I am passionate about what I do. I get there, and I turn them around. I enjoy doing it, it's a challenge, and I'm good at it. I'm the guy you want at 4am when there's a patient down the ward about to arrest. But most of all, what I like is to get there and deal with the patient, and then see them sat up in bed talking at 6.

    There are a lot of healthcare workers who are absolutely scared s**tless by that kind of thing, that's fine. They choose to work in other areas. Some of my best friends work in rehabilitation, elderly care etc. where there are patients with significant long term cognitive and physical disability. They enjoy working with these people, making them better. But does anybody criticise them, say that they're sick for wishing infirmity on people so that they can do what they're good at? Of course not.

    But really, what's the difference?

  3. If you check any day's programming just on terrestrial TV, you'll see it's basically murders – from Murder She Wrote to CSI, the Bill, all those crime shows – and injuries (ER, Holby City, Casualty) etc. Throw in a smidgen of arson, terrorism and plagues breaking out, and you have the plot of a large amount of programming, and most mainstream Hollywood movies.Which means that nasty but interesting things happening to other people are the entertainment 99% of the population chooses to watch, in fact can't get enough of, for vicarious thrills.

    At least you are pitting your skills against those unfortunate illnesses and injuries and actually helping people – and if you weren't hungry to do your job, you'd be rubbish at it.

    I knew someone who was murdered, and in real life it's not remotely entertaining or glamourous, it's just sad and ugly and horrible, but I admit I'll watch the occasional CSI like everyone else….

  4. OK OK, I'll go and stab someone.Sheesh, the things you do to keep people happy..

    (ohh and don't take the piss out of OUR terrorists, get yer own!) πŸ˜‰

  5. I think about all “on call” jobs are, to varying degrees, the same way. I'm a UNIX system adminstrator. The most excited I've ever been on the job was when one company deleted their production SAP database as part of a change, and then couldn't restore it. It was down from Saturday until Wednesday night. Their executives told my boss that the lawyers were headed to bankrupcy court Thursday morning because they couldn't pay a bill or ship product without their SAP system.OTOH, most of the time, I create userIDs, expand filesystems, and other boring, everyday stuff (the equivalent of restocking the truck and transporting stable patients for you ambulance people :). I do my best to never see a problem one.

    The problems are still the exciting part… πŸ™‚

  6. I go thru the same case of the 'guilts' after a long stretch of typical B.S. calls, reorganizing the stock on the truck, washing, doing station housework duties and longing for a 'good cardiac' or an 'interesting cva' or a really 'juicy mva'.You're not alone!!

  7. I have been thinking about the same thing for the last month, me and my crew mate have “missed” two good jobs which really annoyed us…. I don't think its sick, its just the nature of us in the job. Just like the dark humour to get you through the harder shifts.

  8. I know what you mean. I would really quite like a piece of X-ray equipment to develop a fault at the moment. The nature of my job means I've got plenty of development-type stuff to do at my desk, but the fun bit is the problem solving at the coalface – often with radiographers, engineers and physicists all working together to work out what has happened and what to do about it. And it is immensly satisfying to get that piece of kit back, safely, into service. For my job to be fun and satisfying, that breakdown has to occur, which isn't exactly great for the patients on whom the kit would otherwise have been used, or the radiographers who have to work round it, or the receptionists who have to do the cancelling of appointments, or the commisars who don't meet their targets(!). But – like you feel about you 'juicy' jobs – it's what I'm trained to do, and what I'm here for.Scientist

  9. Ahh, the quiet spells.I usually hate them as it means that anytime soon the baloon goes up. I was off sick last year following an op and my regualr mate got loads. Overtime (night) shift, major head injures on a lad in a bad RTA (Airlifted at 1am on the police helecopter), Days 3 days later, Crashed paraglider on a cliff (airlifted by RAF Sea King Helecopter), and when I went back just after he got a double stabbing we got 2 dead ones on our first shift.

    We pray for the quiet days now.

  10. Tom, unless I've got something very very wrong in the years I have been reading your blog, you're not “happy when people injure themselves”. If you came over to my blog and saw that I had chopped my own leg off in a freak tin-opener accident, this would not fill your heart with joy.You're happy when people have injured themselves and you can do something about it, even if that something is “only” comforting their relatives or making sure they don't die alone.You're happy when it turns out that there is a point to you turning up for work. That's not unusual in the least.

  11. good point put the tin-opener down ….slowly … now, …step away from the tin openerphew

  12. Working on a 'TV series – an ambulance worker who sets up increasingly bizarre 'accidents.'Thats an interesting pitch, so the leading character will be suffering from the very rare psychological disorder 'Munchausen's by EMT', as opposed to more common 'Munchausens by first aid certificate' ? πŸ˜‰

  13. I know what you mean. I am never happier than when faced with a really interesting and challenging building defect, whether it's a beautiful raking crack, penetrating damp or poorly detailed cavity walling. To the owner, of course, it invariably means spending vast amounts of money, having a room (or a whole building) out of use, and all the disruption to their lives and businesses that only building defects can cause. To me – heaven! Ages spent picking over it with a pointing tool, happy hours measuring, photographing, mulling over it in the comfort of my office, cup of tea by my side…

  14. I remember several years ago when I would come home from the trauma unit and proclaim it was a great shift. My definition of a great shift was one filled with shootings stabbings, and serious car accidents. It wasn't that I wished anyone to be injured or hurt; I just wanted to be there to help if it did happen. I'm still haunted by some of those memories and faces; particularly the ones that didn't make it. It's a tough life when things we find “interesting” are also those things that keep us up at night.

  15. I've not had a job that's challenged me in a long time, over a year, maybe 2! I don't wish ill or injury on anybody, I only wish that when someone does get seriously ill or injured they could do it when I am A)on duty and B)the nearest available resource!

  16. We had a hospital worker set fire to the nurses' home so he could go and “help” .Luckily no one was killed although he had set several fires. It was years before the block was re built because the hospital did not have insurance.I remember being on an escort duty with an ambulance crew. On our way back we saw another ambulance on the other carriageway. Or crew were firstly jealous and then critical of the other crew- eg “why are they sitting him up?” etc.Hate to tell you this mate, you are normal! I get a debrief from you know who when she comes home from work, I always used to say to her”have you had any of our patients?”You are honing your skills like a cat with a mouse! Surgeons used to go to N Ireland to get experience, it's all part of life's rich tapestry as my recently deceased stepfather-in-law used to say. He also used to sing “Life's a golden dream” , bless him.

  17. It's ONLY the ones you didn't know about, the ones who weren't called in, the ones who didn't even GET a chance, at all, that should keep us ALL up at night – by which I'm trying to say that, as a non-medic (but someone whose job is reliant also upon people's pain and loss, really) there's no shame in you being keen for the juicier cases.If I ever suffer a terrible carrot/chainsaw/goat-related bizarro-world injury (or indeed, just the consequences of something I thought was smart, going wrong) I'd rather be treated by a medical team – ambulance, A&E + intensive care – who delight in treating challenging cases, and not a bunch of beige uniforms who are timeservers, and despise automatically anyone who takes them away from their precious desks.

    Imagine for a moment a world in which doctors, EMTs, firefighters etc felt it was too much faffing to do their jobs and turned to them with the enthusiasm of a bored librarian!

    I bless and thank people who love their jobs: modern-day incompetance and poor service is purely caused by lost souls who don't even LIKE their jobs, let alone enjoy deploying their skills and getting elbow-deep in an issue.

    Okay, shutting up now, but I feel quite strongly about this!

  18. Tom, you are just being honest and using your self knowledge to maintain a very balanced approach to your work. In modern psycho-speak it's called reflective practice. In my training days it was called knowing yourself and thinking about what you're doing and make sure you're doing it for the right reason. It's the people who are not honest with themselves and lack insight who sometimes get to stay in professions to which they are totally unsuited (power freaks, saviours, psychopaths).As usual…good on you!

  19. When I was an SJA cadet, I'd go out on duties and be really excited, hoping for something major, but all we ever got were cuts and grazes. ONE exciting thing happened, and the adults got to deal with it, leaving us to get the details from the patient's family so we could save the paras some work. >:(But I got to do CPR for real yesterday! Unfortunately, I knew the patient, and even more unfortunately, she died. πŸ™ Still, at least I know what to expect now, but I'd much rather she just fell and broke her leg or something. That's easier to deal with, both emotionally and physically.

  20. As a member of a VSA I fully relate to your “let's have a decent casualty” thoughts. 30 hours of first aid duty over the weekend, and the most exciting casualty was an elderly lady who'd tripped on the kerb and fallen awkwardly. But she was such a sweetie it made my weekend.

  21. A singer/songwriter byname Geoff Berner have a song called “The true enemy”Here it goes..

    The True Enemy

    Why did God put Evil in the world, God damn it?

    Was it just an accident, or did he plan it?

    Well, the fact is that God made the world to entertain himself,

    And to keep things interesting, he took a little Evil off the shelf.

    But to do Gods work, evils got to be set free,

    To fight Boredom, the true enemy.

    Boredom is the true enemy.

    With all the bad things put away,

    Lifes just a boring little play,

    And Boredom is the true enemy.

    What made Eve and Adam fall so fast?

    A snake in the grass?

    No. Boredom.

    What made Pontius Pilate shrug and wash his hands?

    Clerical demands? No. Boredom.

    What made Mohammed Atta wanna visit New York City?

    American foreign policy?

    No, same reason as anybody: Boredom is the true enemy.

    Boredom is the true enemy.

    Now before you start to answer,

    Remember: it takes more lives than cancer.

    Boredom is the true enemy.

    What makes the local teenagers so vile?

    The latest music style? No. Boredom.

    What makes the Vancouver Police Beat up the harmless protester?

    Are they products of incest, Or?

    Well, yes. But thats caused by Boredom.

    What makes genocide flare up with such tedious frequency?

    Some kind of evil flea? People, honestly.

    Boredom is the true enemy. Boredom is the true enemy.

    So Its really not that nice To want to stamp out every vice,

    When boredom is the true enemy.

    Songs about cars and angels and the rain Must be disdained.

    They are the enemy.

    A thousand books chock full of chicken soup

    For the souls of the stupid Enemy,

    Stories and plays that come with a Happy Ever After guarantee

    Now thats a goddamn tradedy,

    When Boredom is the true enemy.

    Boredom is the true enemy,

    So join me in consensus, Youre either with us or against us,

    Boredom is the true

    Go ahead and sue, But applaud when I am through,

    Because Boredom is the true enemy!

  22. This sounds very familiar Tom, all we've had so far this year has been dogs and inflatable dinghies. Not that we wish disaster on people but like the 'T' shirts says…..I just want to be there when it happens, still, sods law I'll be on my own with the kids when it finally does happen!Regards


  23. i know exactly what you mean, and you certainly aren't on your own, nor are you mad (well, either you're not mad or we are all mad in which case no-one will notice).i am an active member of St John Ambulance, and I have had duty after duty after duty of cut fingers, or nothing at all; its the same in my workplace, nothing but paper cuts and “p.e.'itus”! It's not that I resent all the paperwork and plasters required for a cut finger/grazed knee (although on your 6th one of the day and you havnt had your lunch yet (with the bell about to go for next lesson)…) its that i want something, well, more 'interesting', after all thats why i'm there.

    In any job, there is nothing more annoying than being prevented from doing your job by someone else, and after all, people being fit and healthy and accident free is simply them preventing you from doing your job! (not that i would/could wish pain or anguish on anyone)

    dont you worry, your call will come (and then you will be wishing for a quiet night!)

    oooo, did you know???… about 6 years ago, a pair of television documentry makers spent 2 weeks with the New York Fire Service. they were nearing the end of their filming time and were concerned as they had had nothing to do for the whole time they had been there. nothing. then on one of thier last days, the phone rang . . . (that day was 11th September)

  24. I know what you mean. I would rather actually be doing something… I nearly handed in my notice this morning because we were so over busy, that there was no way I could do my job, because there was too much paperwork to be organised etc. I didn't train for three years as a midwife to be an administrator. I actually did cry a little bit in the lift lobby. I don't get to do midwifery any more, I do apologies, damage limitation and hospital readmission.

  25. While I relate to your sentiment, the phrase keeps coming to mind “be careful what you wish for…”!

  26. A certain number of people get injured and ill each day – I just hope that the person who needs urgent medical help will be in our area.Maybe that's just rationalising distorted thinking though…..

    There was that case of the A and E nurse who was injecting patients with potassium chloride because he enjoyed the drama of an arrest.

  27. Maybe it's just that we all find different things exciting..? For example today we got called to a “woman who'd fallen down stairs – query fractured leg” at a local college holding a story telling festival.. The volunteer ambulance service was there and dealing.. en route we got a message saying that they would meet us at the main gates with the patient on board.. we got there and 30 seconds later they sped up the drive blue lights flashing towards us.. ” ooh” thought I, ” maybe it's a nasty break..” So out I jumped and went over to their vehicle, opened the back doors to be shown a.. man with a sprained ankle.. bandaged upto the knee with cold packs applied.. He didn't know what the fuss was all about and refused transport to the A+E.. 2 forms later we went back to station.. Exciting for them, and for me.. well I think you can guess….

  28. You're not peculiar, your body simply likes the adrenaline rush and has learned to associate that with the poorly bunnies. I'm working this morning and have the 'first-on' bleep. I'd be quite nice to have an alert call for resus or an arrest somewhere in the hospital – just to break the day up so to speak.

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