When Johnny Met Rosie--Women in EMS Part 4: God Save the Queen

Can we build a culture based on respect and not competition? It's a tall order, considering all of the factors that come into play.


"To find out a girl's faults, praise her to her girlfriends." --Benjamin Franklin

A few months after my promotion to a training assignment, I took a per diem line position at another MICU (couldn't stay off the truck). Like any new job, it had its good and bad points. I had to learn a new system that had a completely different dynamic than I was used to. At the core, however, was where I found peace of mind, because no matter where you work, the job is essentially the same. Instead of the deluge of concerns and daily forest fires I have to contend with at my primary job, when I go to the other place my function is simple: "You just want me to go out there and take care of sick people? Heck, I can do THAT." And that's what I do. I am not there to make waves, storm any castles or otherwise hit the proverbial radar if it can be avoided.

Yet, in short order, I had four separate complaints about me from BLS providers. Different agencies, different incidents, I had a different partner each time. The complaints were specifically about me and my behavior or attitude.

Now if you know me as a provider, this is unusual. Nobody gets along with everyone, ever. However, I have always had a good working relationship with the BLS providers I've practiced alongside. I am just not known for being "bad" to BLS. If I am irritated, it is usually isolated to patient care issues and will be addressed in due course.

I had only been off the road for about three months, so it's not like I experienced any radical changes in experience or practice. All I did was put on a new patch and go back on a truck; my personal ethics and clinical practice had not changed. Yet, now I was accused of being "rude" and "cold" and "mean." I had a "snobby attitude" and "blew off the BLS."

Listening to what was being said, I went back and dissected every single call and could not think of one single thing that was out of place each time. There were no icy comments, dagger-filled glares or snide comments. None of the patients were critically ill, where there might have been a dispute over a care issue. I had thanked the responding crew after each assignment, yet I was apparently this icy bitch on wheels. What the heck was going on? In venting to one of my partners, he said something that gave me pause: "She just didn't like you calling the shots."

There it was--SHE. In almost every instance, the source of the complaint was a woman, usually the only woman on a regular crew, or at least the woman in authority (crew chief, captain, whatever). Unlike my main job, where I have established presence, for the first time in a long time *I* was the new kid on the block. I was the new face, the unknown, the wild card...and a GIRL. It did not matter that it was part of my designated role as the paramedic to direct patient care. It did not matter that in some instances I was the only one on scene capable of doing a particular skill as part of my job and not my gender.

What mattered was that I had stepped into the sandbox without even a "by your leave" and usurped what was a unique position. I had ticked off the alpha female in the room. Just to be fair, I piss off guys, too (but that's a different article).

In a career ground that we all acknowledge is male-dominated, an arena where to succeed we often have to work harder, longer and with a different approach just to attain the equivalent respect, why is it that women are harder on each other than anyone else usually is? Why is it that when you put two unknown women providers in the vicinity of one another you run the risk of the ambulance turning into this subtle version of Thunderdome (two women enter, one woman leaves)? Well, since nobody will say it out loud, I guess I will.

We like having the playing field all to ourselves. We worked for it, we earned it and we're not about to let just any pretty young thing come in and supplant us without proving she can cut it.

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