Decisions made in the field, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are indeed the perfect breeding ground for moral injuries [“Managing Stress During COVID-19,” June 2020].
More often than not, fire and EMS crews are made up of individuals with varying backgrounds, religious preferences, genders, ethnicities, etc. While familiarity at the station and friendships forged through shared experiences are powerful, current local, state, and national issues, or even the events of a particular call, may strain even the most secure relationships. From day one we are all taught to “leave work at work” and to “not bring your family life to work” as well, but recent events prove these are much easier said than done.
The perfect storm of COVID-19, coupled with the recent protests, has stressed first responders to the limit. Any method that can be used to assuage this stress level should be attempted. Preshift crew meetings, peer counseling, postevent debriefings, one-on-one decompressing—whatever’s available should all be on the table and pursued with complete transparency, honesty, trust, and openness.
Now more than at any time in our recent past, EMS has been bumped out of its comfort zone. Yet at the very core of our existence is the strong heartbeat of desire and motivation to thrive in that discomfort. Our common values, coupled with our inherent differences, make us collectively stronger. We all bring something to the table—a table where, in these times more than ever, all are welcome.
—Darwyn Case, firefighter/paramedic, Grand Prairie Fire Department, Tex.
I recently reviewed the website for REPLICA (the EMS Compact). I was disappointed to yet again see a national EMS body display a shocking lack of diversity. I write this in hopes EMS World will take notice of the lack of diversity in our national EMS organizations. I’ve seen firsthand the racial homogeneity in the boards of our profession’s most influential groups—all of which are limited by the candidates nominated to those boards by their sponsors. Advocacy by EMS World and other influential publications is needed to push sponsors to nominate diverse candidates. It’s far past time for us to remedy this lack of inclusion.
—Dr. Sandy Hunter, NRP
Complicity: An EMS Issue Too
Two days after the death of George Floyd, I happened to be in the Minneapolis area visiting a healthcare system. Watching cable news and seeing the protests and fires downtown, I could see from my window the dark smoke rising in the air.
Watching the video of George Floyd’s death was hard to watch but necessary. How could none of these officers realize what they were doing was not just wrong, but inhumane?
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that “Being silent or not intervening, to me, you’re complicit. So I don’t see a level of distinction that’s any different.” This got me thinking of complicity in our own industry.
A few years ago at my former company, there were two incidents in which four paramedics were terminated for conduct unbecoming related to a purposeful response delay. In both these cases, units were stopped at a traffic light when their unit was dispatched to an ALS-level response. Instead they chose to hurry back to the station for a “hot shift change” with the oncoming night team. Upon review, the veterans told me it is something many do all the time.
I strongly believe in “just culture.” This was conscious disregard for someone who needed help until proven otherwise.
I met with union leadership to discuss the matter. I was against putting this issue into policy because I felt that paramedics should know better, but some do not. We came up with a policy that explained exactly when it is appropriate to shift change upon receiving an emergency dispatch.
Our patients deserve better; George Floyd deserved better! As a country, all lives can't matter until Black lives matter. Sam Cooke said it best: “It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come. Oh, yes it will.”
—Jeff Behm, Former President and COO, MONOC Mobile Health