Thursday, January 14, 2010


I currently have 2 MINUTES TO MYSELF!!! It won't last!!! I better take advantage of it!!!
Holy jeepers, I just snuck downstairs to get away from shadows #1 and #2 (like thing one and thing two, from Dr Seuss, except a lot more annoying). Riley currently has separation anxiety if I go into the next room, and Matthew is so social that when Ayden is not here he just follows one of us around from room to room, even the bathroom and the garage, until you just want to scream or scratch your own face or move to Florida or something.
I've escaped! Not for long, I'm sure. Someone will realize I'm not with them and sniff me out soon.

I worked last Sunday and had a story to tell you, but didn't want to upstage my Matthew's Birth Story post, so I waited. It's not a guts and blood story, don't worry. It's a I can't believe I work for a company so asinine story. We were busy all night, so I got NO sleep (for those of you who work night shifts where sleep is impossible are snorting coffee from their nostrils right now, but if you are expecting SOME sleep and get none it really sucks. Especially because I don't sleep before or after a night shift, generally). Then at 5:10 a.m., a mere fifty minutes before the end of our shift, we were paged to do a four hour transfer to Royal Columbian. See, someone at Royal Columbian has decided they are tired of ambulances arriving late with patients due for procedures. So they started booking transfers for arrival before that section of the hospital even OPENS; like, arrival time is 5 or 6 a.m. for an 11 o'clock procedure. Is this fair? I'm sure it is frustrating for RCH staff to deal with a chronically late ambulance service, but the problems here are (a) we get early morning transfers about an hour before shift change. Transfers to RCH take about 4 hours at that time in the morning, which means 3 extra hours at the end of a shift. Does anyone here like 12 hour shifts? Show of hands? Okay, how about 15 hour shifts?!? No takers? The other main issue here is (b) patient care. Who likes to be sick and get out of bed and go on an ambulance ride to a different hospital? Okay, how about being sick and getting out of bed and going on an ambulance ride at 5 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING? Or 4:30??
This is bad for everyone except RCH.

So, we get paged at 5:10 for this STUPID transfer to RCH for a 6 o'clock appointment in a department I KNOW doesn't open until 7. At this point we've been paged late anyways, and would get there around 7:20 or 7:30 with morning traffic and the time it takes to load, but I'm pissed because the 6 o'clock appointment thing is bogus and everyone knows it. But see, I can't do extra hours on this particular shift, because Brent is working that morning. I have to get off on time. So I phoned dispatch and told them I couldn't do the transfer, and explained why. "ARE YOU REFUSING TO TAKE THIS TRANSFER??" Says the voice on the other end of the line. "Yes, I can't do it. My husband has to work a dayshift today, and we have kids. I have to get off on time." "SO AM I TO UNDERSTAND YOU ARE REFUSING TO TAKE THIS TRANSFER BECAUSE OF CHILD CARE ISSUES?" "Yes." "YOU'LL BE HEARING FROM US AGAIN." Click.
Awesome. And the other ambulance crew that was on was MAD, because the transfer would then be passed off to them. Which it was. And they agreed to do it, if the service would put them up in a hotel in Coquitlam for the day because they would be too tired to drive back (it happens. But it costs the service a ton so they don't do it if they can avoid it). And my coworker yelled at me, "If you can't work to the end of your shift you shouldn't be working. If you can't fulfill the requirements of your job, your peers have to pick up the slack!" Which is partially true, but in this case I didn't plan to be lazy or anything. I had legitimate childcare issues.
I felt awful that the transfer had been doled out to my coworkers, because they had worked all night also, and certainly didn't want to work an extra three hours. Although as full timers, they would be paid double time, whereas my partner and I would only make straight time. So there's that.
Anyways, Agassiz's night shift wound up taking the trasfer. And I went home.
And that night I went back for an educational seminar and my Unit Chief pulled me into his office to talk about it. He's awesome, I really like and respect him and he was very nice about it. He said, "I put out fires all over the place for you today!" And listened to my side of the story empathetically. He suggested next time that I need to get off on time, to arrange for early shift relief or let dispatch know at the beginning of the shift. That was an excellent option that I had forgot that I had--people do that all the time for each other so it wouldn't be hard to arrange.
But how is it that (apparently) the superintendent and charge dispatcher and district unit chief and station unit chief all have to get their panties in a knot and get all huffy just to conclude that a reminder of this solution was warranted? And how is it that "I can't work overtime because my kids will have no one to look after them" is not valid? Particularly a stupid bogus transfer for an appointment time an hour before the department opens? If someone had a heart attack, Brent could be a bit late for work while I save his life. But this? No.
I'm tired of my employer. Can I say that? I'm tired of the bullying and powermongering. I'm tired of being dehumanized by my management but being expected to continually deal with the most horrifying and sad and gory stuff on a daily basis. How is it fair for me to see drowned babies and men in their twenties with gunshot holes in the backs of their heads with their teeth poking out the holes and raped women and drunk women in labour, and then go back and be told, "You have to work three hours of overtime regardless of whether your kids are supervised?" Dehumanizing is the exact word for how it feels. You're a piece of machinery. A cog in a wheel. A worthless, disposable entity.
I've worked many 14 to 16 hour days, mostly at straight time, and done so without complaining (at work--I'll complain to you sometimes!). But no one remembers this. No one remembers if you work hard or you don't, or if you wash the car or you don't, or if you saved a life or you didn't. Everyone remembers if, one time, you couldn't take a transfer that would put you three hours past shift change. A lot of my coworkers are 'friends' on facebook, and there is this facebook application that allows you to vote on characteristics ov your 'friends.' I keep meaning to unsubscribe to this program, because it keeps sending me emails saying my 'friends' voted that one of my weakness is 'hardest worker.' This is ludicrous. I'm a very hard worker. I just don't work 90 hours a week like most paramedics I know. It is a part of the subculture to work 16 hour shifts without question, and 80 to 90 hour work weeks because you 'need the money.' And everyone blames the employer or the system, and their families suffer, and I REFUSE to make my family pay for my job.

Hats off to anyone who can take this kind of abuse for an entire career. I'm done.


Caryn Ouwehand said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caryn Ouwehand said...


This is junk. Someone needs to get throat punched over stuff like this. I hate the eye-roll-oh-the-only-reason-you-can't-be-at-work-is-because-you-have-to-care-for-your-precious-children face. I've gotten it too.

Next time tell the dispatcher that you will take the transfer if she can arrange 4 hours of early morning childcare for your 3 children in the next 45 seconds.

...(and sorry that first deleted comment was mine, but was majorly sub-par so it got axed.)

tamie said...

OH MY GOD. What the fuck? What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck. This is totally unacceptable! I can't believe this shit happens! I can't believe it's happening to you! I'm so sorry.

What are you going to do, Mel? Are there higher-ups you can talk to? Could you write an article and send it to the paper? Could you contact someone else to write an article on working conditions, etc., among paramedics? Ahhhh!!!!!!!

Rachel Clear said...

I second everything Tamie said.