Kentucky remains in the spot light with the recent dismissal of an EMT. Louisville Metro EMS dismissed the EMT after she spoke with the media about sleep deprivation concerns in EMS. She had been on suspension for falling asleep in a patients house while entering information into her electronic patient care report.
Medic 51 has even shared his thoughts on shift work and the negative culture that exists in EMS today. Not every agency takes a hard line like “if you don’t like the work you can find another job”, but enough managers believe that employees who voice concerns are all just whining about the job. This is not new to EMS.
The reactions I have read from people on social media sites are all directed towards the individuals, how they are always complaining and causing problems. They were also waving the “if you don’t like it…” standard, and many people flocked to the same conclusion. Even the statements from the Louisville Metro Council are off the target, citing overtime expenses and budgetary concerns.
The news hinted at the issue, stating that Louisville Metro EMS has 24% fewer people on working than they did two years ago. Sixty Three fewer people to fill the shifts. Sixty three more positions that they have to force people to work.
Art Hsieh, posted a quick thought on EMS1.com. As a well respected, published author on EMS topics I was shocked that he didn’t take the thought as far. He did leave us with the statement “I’m wondering what else is happening in the back story that’s not being reported.” He knows there is more to the firing and mandatory holdover complaints than what we are seeing.
The issue that should be on the front page, is safety. Do you really want a paramedic trying to do the dopamine calculation when they’ve been awake for the past 20 hours? I do not want to address multiple jobs, lack of pay, off duty activities (even though I am aware that these can all contribute to sleep deprivation), I just want to know why it is acceptable to hold EMS workers every shift, up to 16 hours. There are tales on the streets of Louisville that people have been held to 20 hours due to lack of coverage.
Between the driving an ambulance, calculating the correct dose of a medication, performing life saving interventions, there are many opportunities where our actions affect patient outcome. Sleep deprivation will affect your ability to make decisions. Why are we not addressing THIS issue? Am I the only one concerned with safety in EMS?