I’ve been told a tale, a legend, a myth, that there are paramedics out there who drive and let their BLS partners handle calls. I would like to know exactly where such an animal exists, because it doesn’t live where I work.

There’s a reason why I waited so long to start driver training on our ambulances. I knew in my gut that the day I was signed off to drive would be the last day I would ever get to tech 911 calls. For a month or two, I was proven wrong. I didn’t tech as many calls as I used to, obviously, but I still got the opportunity to be in the back. But for the last several months, my original theory proved correct.

Although I work several shifts a week, I haven’t actually teched a call in months. It’s just frustrating when all I am allowed to do is drive. I didn’t fall in love with the field for the flashing lights and sirens. Driving an ambulance wasn’t the reason my body flooded with excitement whenever my pager went off. I became an EMT because I wanted to help people. I wanted to offer care and support when someone needed it the most. And although driving the ambulance to a hospital is a hugely important piece in what we do, that’s not what I came here for.

It’s getting to the point where I no longer get excited for calls. When the pager screeches, I sigh, listen to the dispatch information, and get in the driver’s seat. No paramedic wants to drive for much of the same reasons I don’t want to drive. They didn’t go to school to drive a truck. They went to school to help people too. But, because they have the higher provider license, they can make the call that I will drive and they will tech. After I help load the patient in the truck, I am expected to take my place in the driver’s seat and get us to the hospital.

Just for the record, this isn’t a rant about not wanting to be called an “ambulance driver.” Call me whatever you want, it really doesn’t bother me. I’m not looking down on the driver; I know getting to where we need to go is essential, and that’s a huge part of why we were called in the first place. And I don’t mind doing my share of the driving. I just miss teching. I miss helping. I miss caring. I miss using my skills, my head, and my heart. Right now, I feel like all I’m using is my right foot.

Comments

  1. I let, no, make my EMT partners tech calls. I didn’t go to school to be a chauffeur, either. And I recognize that EMTs don’t go to school to have the privilege to drive people around. When the day gets busy with BLS, I am always ready and willing to step in and give my partner a break if needed. Usually though, EMTs are excited to be in the back, and grateful at the opportunity.

    I also think higher of my EMT partners than a lot of other medics where I work. I feel confident that EMTs can handle calls, and know their limits. Only rarely will an EMT let me know they are uncomfortable with a call that I perceive to be BLS. How can an EMT be expected to know how to do their job if they never get to do their job? How can we expect an EMT to be competent as a paramedic if they are never allowed to tech calls as an EMT? 80 percent of this job is BLS, anyways.

    Perhaps you could explain to the paramedics you work with your desire to be in the back? If you haven’t already?

    • Well thank you for saying so.

      I have approached the medics I trust with this issue. They sympathize. Part of it is that they don’t want to be missing out on patient care either. At the end of the day, they still have the higher provider license, so they’re still entitled to claim the patient needs ALS care or is at an increased likelihood to need ALS care at some point during transport.

      The other part of it is that we have ungodly beasts for ambulances. These things are huge. Our biggest one is over 10 feet tall and is only a few hundred pounds below requiring a CDL to drive it. They’re intimidating and take a while to get used to. Some medics admit they’re intimidated by the ambulances and don’t want to learn how to drive them. When asked to drive, they’ll say they’re not comfortable. The simultaneously nice and frustrating thing about our department is that if someone says they’re uncomfortable with driving, they don’t have to drive, no questions asked. So, it can be something of a scapegoat for the medics. I can’t say I blame them. It took a long time for me to get comfortable driving these beasts, especially on narrow city streets or unmaintained country roads.

      Long story short, I’ve brought it up, but it doesn’t seem to be having any effect whatsoever. Except now a couple of them will let me take a blood pressure before banishing me to the driver’s seat. Goody.

      I’m strongly considering approaching one of the higher ups and asking if I can spend a shift as a third rider, specifically so I can get back into doing patient care. I don’t even care if I get paid, I just miss teching calls. I need to do something to prevent my skills from atrophying more than they already have. Doing nothing but driving all the time is truly burning me out. If I don’t do something to remedy this soon, the idea of leaving EMS (or at least this department) is becoming heartbreakingly appealing, if that makes any sense.

  2. If you were my partner I’d probably let you tech all our calls. I’m getting old, I drive like my grandfather, and that means we’re more likely to get to the ER alive if I’m driving. Your medics are denying their roots by not driving that ambulance sand that’s just sad.

  3. I hardly ever drive. My ALS partners and BLS partners have very little desire to tech the calls. I prefer that the patient be cared for by someone who actually wants to be doing the job. I discuss it with the partner, and have never had anyone say they preferred to rotate off, rather than plan ahead for me to do all the calls.

    I’d love to have an energetic partner!

  4. SARSpecialist says:

    Well here it depends on SOP, some say certain calls are EMT and some say all cals get ALS/MICU Attendant.. I realy try to let my EMTs do their job… but we also have Advanced EMTs that can start lines, do baseline cardiac, Intubate ect. Most EMTs only want to drive and do very little in the back as far as Pt care and I think that is a bad thing but they have gotten into a habit that is hard to break. You are not JUST a driver you are PART of the team.

  5. Wow, I sympathise. We have practically an unwritten policy that we trade off. Senior get to chose if they drive/patient care for the first job of the shift, then we just switch back and forth unless specific skills are needed.
    Is getting signed off on ambulance driving an employment requirement?

    • I don’t think there’s any true Standard Operating Procedure official guideline saying that we have to be sign off to drive in order to stay employed. It’s sort of an unwritten rule. Towards the end of your ambulance probation, when you have your feet under you and the officers are giving serious consideration to “cutting you loose” and allow you to operate alone in th eback of the truck (and earn a few other privaleges), you begin driver training. You can be taken off ambulance probation without knowing how to drive, but you must know how to drive in order to work day shifts. It’s kind of expected that you will be signed off to drive early on in your career.

Speak Your Mind

*