Tuesday, July 31, 2007

To Stay or Not to Stay....

I've made comments in other posts about my service being shorthanded when it comes to Medics. This has become an understatement. I have only worked for 2 EMS services. The first was a Basic transport service. It started out like many others, a small Mom and Pop operation where the owner still ran calls on the truck. Eventually, sadly, they got a little too big for their britches and forgot about the little people that made them what they were. I left them for several reasons, the major being an increase in my education and I couldn't use it there. Other reasons included several disagreements with the management and the overall day-to-day grind of the place. It just wasn't what I signed on for. So I left.

Now I have been with my current service, an ALS service, for about a year and a half. Not that long by many standards, and I completely agree. But my seniority is quickly growing. This is due to Medics leaving and leaving quickly. In that year and a half about 15 senior Medics have left. And I'm not talking about Medics that have been here for a year or 2. I'm talking about 5-15 year Medics. Some left because of Nursing school, we all know that Nurses on average make a hell of a lot more money, so I can understand that to some degree. Others leave because of personal disagreements with the management, which is inevitable, first rule of management should be that you can't make everyone happy. But the rest? I don't really have a clue.

We have lost a lot of people to "Big City EMS" just down the road. They pay a little more, not much, but a little. Their call volume is 2-3 times greater, they have 3-4 times as many employees and they have the availability of 12 hour shifts instead of 24. They can have a call completed from dispatch to return to quarters in less than an hour. They have a major hospital inside the county and that is where they transport everything, so their turn around time is quick. To me this is a bad thing, you don't get a chance to be a Medic. They vary rarely even start an IV because they can load and go and have the patient inside the ED so quick, there is rarely any point. I can see why some Medics like this. The ones who are lazy or don't know what they are doing and the ones that are burnt.

I'm not downing the urban EMS service. The basic service I worked for was in an urban setting and we ran the basic 911 calls. I have some good friends that work in the urban setting, and I know several great Medics that also work in the big city. It's not for me, but someone has to do it.

Back to the original question.....why do people leave? Maybe it's just me but I was raised to have pride in my work and loyalty to that place. Sometimes things piss me off and I bitch a little, but I'm not going anywhere. I love my job and I love my service. I try to recruit whenever I get the chance. I don't think others think like me in this way. I don't think that loyalty ever comes into play for some people. For me EMS is a career, a lifestyle if you will, not just a job. I may sound corny or pathetic or like a greenhorn, but that's just the way it is for me. I don't live and breath EMS 24/7. I take my time off and I try to leave my work at work and not bring it home with me, but EMS is my passion, I don't know how to say it any other way.

My service is comparable in many ways to other services. We are on average with other services as far as pay. We still work the 24/48 schedule. Time off is great, we generate about 24 hours a month for new employees and that goes up with your vested time in. Other benefits are on par with the area as far as insurance and all that. Depending on which station you are at you could have between a 30 and 90 minute transport time, and that's emergency traffic. Our call volume is fairly low. An average day is 3-6 calls. Each call will take about 2-3 hours from start to finish. Due to our long transport times, we have excellent protocols with a lot of freedom and flexibility. We also have a full drug box with RSI and thrombolytics. I know this sounds like a pitch for employment, its not, just trying to give the reader a sense of my service.

So why is it that Paramedics leave? Is it because of the money? different scenery? different type of service? I'm at a loss on this issue.

Another problem that we along with other services are having is hiring. From the little info that I can glean from out training officer we have very few applications coming in and even fewer who can pass the entrance testing. This is a statewide thing. I have heard that the director of our Office of EMS said that there is a shortage of 2-3,000 Paramedics across the state. Why is that? When I went for my test, there were over 300 people in the room. They broke us up and all of the people testing for Intermediate and Paramedic filled only one classroom which was less than 40. Forty out of 300! That is proof to me that there just isn't that many people going for the Paramedic patch.

I think I'll end my rant here and pick up later after a few comments.


Scott said...

I imagine the burnout factor is one of the biggest issues. My ex-girlfriend was a Basic in a big city. She was a trauma junkie and loved her job, but it stressed her out so much!

I imagine the pathatic pay is probably a close second. I knew lots of Medics who went to nursing or medical school. I realize your motivation for doing that job ISN'T money, but it sure is nice to open a paycheck and smile, feel that your efforts are appreciated, and know that the repo man won't be coming this month!

I've never worked in the EMS, but I can remember several paychecks I opened as a locksmith, when my on call money was low, that made me sick to my stomach. I prefer to smile!

Loving Annie said...

Good Wednesday morning Blue Ridge,

There is little career loyalty nowadays, not like it used to be.

You are somewhat of a rarity, I think...

People look for pay and aren't as passionate about the job.

Bureaucratic intolerance, burnout and indifference/lack of love for what they really do all probabaly contribute to job hopping.

It has become acceptable but that doesn't make it more admirable...

I think staying can represent stability.
How often do you see someone who can say "I worked for the same company for 20 years ?"

Sometimes it IS management that needs to change and improve. And sometimes it isn't...

Chris in SE TX said...

I don't know which state you're in, but down here in Texas, the reason for Paramedic, or even EMT shortness would be money. An EMT-B makes anywhere from $7 / h (at a 911 service) to $13-14 at a transport company. The smaller the town, the less money. In Beaumont, $9-10 for a transport company is the norm.

An EMT-P will make $14-17 per hour.

Many, if not most of these services don't offer paid time off or even insurance.

When you consider the training, which isn't easy, this isn't great. You can make $10-14 / hour working in customer service etc, where the employer will pay you for while they train you and no special skills or education are required. Bigger companies offer benefits even for people in customer service, so overall it,s a much better deal.

As far as people job hopping, again, I don't know where you live, but down here, since there is an EMT shortage, it's very easy to get a job. Therefore, many people who get tired of some small quirks at their company simply go where they think the grass is greener. When they get disappointed there, they leave again. Remember, most companies don't offer benefits, so you don't lose anything by job hopping.

Of course it may be different where you live....

Scott said...

I am too young to remember this. But my parents do. Some companies used to take care of their employees. Offering nice benefits packages and decent pay. There was even something about retirement packages.

People used to be able to work loyally for a company for 20 years and then "retire" and that company would continue to pay them or some fund that was set up would continue to pay them.

Now, there are still a few companies that offer similar things, but the goal is 30 or even 40 years of work before you see those benefits.

So I agree with Chris. If there is no financial incentive to stay, and you can find another job, why not try it? Sound greedy? Well, why do people work? The main reason, I suspect, would be to earn money to put food on the table. (Not to mention, to BUY the table.) If your company is doing a piss-poor job of compensating you for your efforts, leave!

Mr. Fixit said...

It's great that you like where you are, and what you get to do.
A few thoughts;
Getting the Paramedic patch is not easy, it takes work and dedication. Working in a system with such long transport times also requires dedication. Many 'young people', and by that I mean those just entering the work force, do not have any sort of dedication or even patience. They want it all, and they want it now, and they don't want to work to get it.
That may be part of the reason there are not many paramedics applying for jobs.

For the ones leaving, I can only guess. Maybe they have been topped out in pay for a while with no increase comming. If so, that may make that .50 hour look good, especially if they have the possibility of other increases. And it may be as easy as they are tired of long transports.

I now that I personally left the private EMS for a job with the City Fire Department because of better benefits and retirement. At the time, I had seen a lot of turnover in the EMS agencies. I think it is just normal since many of them are smaller and have no retirement. I will say since I joined the FD, only one or two guys have left before retireiment. They didn't really want to be there in the first place though.

And one, bless his heart, left to re-join the marines.