Sleep Deprivation Part 2

Can you regulate what people do on their off days? I know that many private service ambulance companies have non competition agreements, stating that you cannot work for competing services at the same time.

I work three jobs. No that’s not uncommon for fire and EMS personnel to work multiple jobs. The 24 hour shift makes it easier to work multiple jobs. At my current full time job I work two 24 hours shifts a week. On paper I have five days off every week. That’s a ton of scheduled time off. Being the resourceful person I am, I fill that time with my part time jobs. Why? Part of the reason is I can, pure and simple. I have a lot of time off why not try to make a little more money? Money is the other reason. Like most people, I can always use a little more money to help pay the bills. Can an employer enact and enforce a rule against working a second job? I’m sure they can, and a few do but enforcing the rule would be hard. I often do not sleep well and have a bit of insomnia. Who’s to say that my morning lethargy is not just from my inability to get to sleep? I heard on the EMS Garage that it is common practice in flight services to have an eight hour rule. You cannot work a shift on the helicopter without having eight hours between your last shift or job. It’s a start, but that’s not nearly adequate just to say you have to have eight hours between shifts. Thats only eight hours to get home, eat, sleep, wake up, eat, shower and get to work on time; Leaving only 4-5 hours of time to sleep. Surely thats not adequate rest.

I know there are areas of my state and the country, where the salaries for EMS are well below a living wage. Working a second or third job would be a necessity.

I decided to satisfy my curiosity and settle a common misnomer about salaries in EMS. I took the information from Louisville Metro Government’s web site and averaged a few common position’s salaries.

  • Louisville Firefighter $50,222.59
  • Louisville Police Officers $48,102.88
  • Librarian $46,219.18
  • Louisville Paramedic $45,050.49
  • Communications Specialist (Dispatcher) $44,380.37
  • Corrections Officer $37,729.29
  • Louisville EMT $33,563.48
  • Sanitation Tipper (garbage man) $32,115.12
I averaged the salaries for the positions listed above; For the Fire Department, police and corrections I did not include sergeants and above. I wanted to use entry level positions, so i also excluded supervisors for Solid Waste Management positions (garbage men).
What does this mean? I’d be one angry librarian. I believe most librarians have Bachelor Degrees, while most firefighters have a high school diploma as highest level of education.
I am willing to bet that not many Sanitation Tippers or Librarians work two or more jobs, even police officers rarely have time to work another job (of course they still get PRN type work for construction sites & protection duty).
So many people in Fire and EMS work second jobs (not always in emergency services) it’s almost considered a right. Do they NEED to work the second jobs? Unfortunately with high divorce rates I know many people who need to work multiple jobs in emergency services and others who just like to keep busy. I know a few firefighters who work two full time jobs with two different fire departments (48 hours on, 24 hours off).
The bottom line, paramedics make a decent wage based on the level of training they have, in my area. If we expect to make more, then we need to make paramedic certification/license an associate level degree. If we want to move beyond a technician/trade mindset and move into the clinician then we need to get our educational act together. We are one of the few industrialized countries that lacks a university based paramedic program.
Will a degree get us larger salaries? I do not know. I would like to hear from paramedics around the globe, let me know what the average salary in your area is for paramedics. Include if you have a degree or not. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

About Joel

I am a paramedic, firefighter and I work for an organ procurement organization. All stories related to work have been altered to HIPPA standards and for the protection of those involved. The personal stories are different. Photography, flying, aviation, hiking, camping, travel, geocaching, amateur radio are a few of my hobbies.
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4 Responses to Sleep Deprivation Part 2

  1. I work 24/24 with two days off every four or five shifts. Most of the guys at my department have second jobs, some have three. It’s commonplace, as you say. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that their spouses work, so “why be home alone during the day?”

    As for restrictions on working hours, the Coast Guard regulates their Search and Rescue crews, both aviation and boat forces, with a utilization rule. You can only ‘work’ for a certain number of hours before you’re taken out of service for mandatory rest. On the boats, that was 8 hours of ‘underway’ time; after being out on a boat for 8 hours, you were ‘done’ and had to go back to the station for rest. I’m not sure the time for aviation, but it’s the same principle.

    The time-limit rule recognizes that after a certain point, people cannot operate as effectively, or safely, and the probability of a ‘mishap’ goes up dramatically. By limiting the amount of time a crew member can be ‘operational’, the CG manages their risk exposure. Not a bad way of doing things. It sucks if you’re the one being told to quit your search or rescue mission, return to base and get some rest. No one wants to quit, I think that’s universal.

    Anyway, great post. I’d work a second job for you any time.

  2. rescuemonkey says:

    I agree, why sit at home when I could be working. having a second job is almost considered a perk of working 24/48 shifts.

    I can’t imagine having to be told to stop the search because your crew has reached it’s maximum utilization hour. It would be difficult to return knowing there are people still out there in need.

  3. Scott says:

    VERY interesting post, sir. I’ve been thinking about broaching this topic myself. Here are a few thoughts:

    1. UHU – Don’t think of it as time worked, think of it more of a ratio of calls to hours worked. It compares those two numbers, and doesn’t take into account statistics such as Time on Task and Service Rate.. More to come on Service Rate on my blog in the near future 🙂

    2. Working multiple jobs – I think one of the failures of our community is we do not educate our Paramedics and EMTs enough on life skills. Paramedics and EMTs (and also firefighters) live life at full throttle, and are very impulsive by nature. We are pushed to make quick decisions when they matter most. I feel sometimes that the end result of that is we are impulsive off the clock too. We don’t spend/save our money wisely. We buy one too many rounds for our friends when we’re at the bar, and we generally don’t always make smart decisions when it comes to managing our money.

    Thats all I’ve got for right this second.. GREAT posts my friend.. I loved reading them!

    Scott aka @MedicSBK

  4. FILO says:

    i work 24 hours / 48 hours off……here at a busy fire-rescue department in Florida. I am assigned to an ACLS rescue. We run about 10 calls a shift…but almost ALWAYS run 2-3 calls after 10pm. This translates to a grueling 24 hour shift since being a supervisor, I cannot always take a nap during the day….besides, there is too much stuff going on during the day (training, meetings, lunch/dinner preparations) to really have the ability to take a day time nap. I have been doing this for 12 years now. I developed an anxiety disorder and some severe insomnia a few years ago. To the point that after a 24 hour shift in which I slept at best 2 hours…..I went home exhausted but could not sleep. Imagine that….what torture. This job is a killer sleep wise and YES….the truth is starting to come out about judgement errors, lack of focus and critical mistakes when your on that serious call at 4am and only had 1 hour of sleep so far. We need to be real and realize that with 24 hour shifts, we are digging our own graves AND putting the people we serve at great danger. We should definitely restructure our shifts to MANAGEABLE 12 hour shifts….so we can go home and rest for 12 hours like the human body was designed to do. Do you see police officers working 24 hour shifts ? hell no. So why should we ? Tradition sucks……it only benefits those old timers stuck on a slow engine that get to sleep all night while rescue runs all night. Something needs to change. Chief officers are starting to realize the tremendous liability these sleep depriving 24 hour shifts can have on their employees, the department and the citizens we serve. Change is coming…..

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